In Nancy Dale’s 1986 epic tome of Southern California native plants, Flowering Plants, she has this to say about Toyon — aka California Holly, Christmas Berry, or, if you’re a botanist, Heteromeles arbutifolia:
“It is thought that masses of this native shrub growing on the hills above Hollywood gave the community its name.”
This idea of floral origins for Hollywood is romantic. It’s also not true. Hollywood got its name for a much more mundane reason: someone wealthy liked the sound of it.
Toyon on Los Vaqueros Watershed Miwok Trail, photo by Miguel Vieira
In 1886, Harvey Henderson Wilcox, a rich prohibitionist from Kansas, and his wife, Daeida, purchased 120 acres of apricot and fig groves near the Cahuenga Pass at $150 an acre. Harvey, an inveterate businessman, realized he could make a lot of...