Coffee Berry, also called California Coffeeberry and California Buckthorn, is amedium to tall flowering shrub. The berries that give the plant its name appear in midsummer. Although not a member of the Coffea genus, this plant’s seeds can be used to make a beverage similar in taste to Chicory.


Multiple Native American tribes relied on Coffee Berry for food and for medicinal purposes. The berries are edible fresh and dried. Native Americans used both the leaves and bark to treat skin irritations. While Native Americans were experienced in using the bark to treat digestive problems, we advise against ingesting it due to the possibility of stomach upset.

Some cooks make jam from the berries. Get advice from a plant expert to make sure the berries are ripe before you eat them, and never eat any berries unless you’re certain of the plant’s identity. Be aware that this plant’s fruits have pits.

Height and Appearance

Height estimates for this shrub range from three feet to 12 feet depending on the type of soil, the amount of sunlight it receives and where you plant it. Its width can match its height. Pruning must be done at the correct time of year to avoid damaging the plant. Consult a landscaper before pruning.

The Coffee Berry shrub has dark red branches and long, slender leaves of true green edged with scarlet. The white flowers are star shaped, just 1/8 of an inch in diameter and have a light green center. The flowers appear as masses of yellow-green buds. The buds can appear as early as March and bloom through June.

The berries are larger than the flowers, about 1/2 of an inch in diameter. You may see red, yellow and purplish-black berries side by side. The berries are green at first and ripen alongside the blooms. This evergreen shrub will add vibrant color to your drought-tolerant garden during winter.

Planting Requirements

Coffee Berry is found in all wild areas of California. It grows well in close proximity to wooded areas but tolerates sandy soil. Part shade is fine. Established plants require twice monthly watering during drought conditions. New plants may need watering as often as once per week. Irrigation should be discussed with your landscaper.

Pollinators and Wildlife

This shrub’s tiny flowers are irresistible to native bees and to butterflies. If you’re a birder, you’ll love watching colorful songbirds feeding on the shrub’s berries. If you want
to bring more birds to your garden, this is the plant for you.

In the Garden

Many gardeners use this tall shrub as a background plant for smaller shrubs. It’s stunning when used to edge a driveway and allowed to grow to its full height. That won’t take long because this is a fast-growing shrub.

Things to Remember:

  • This shrub gets as tall as a small tree
  • New plants need regular water
  • The berries are a favorite of many popular bird species

Planting time isn’t far away. Contact us today if you want to add Coffee Berry to your garden.