Toyon, in the rose family, carries a name given to it by Native Americans and produces fruit related to apples. Because it ripens and turns bright red around the holidays, its common names are Christmas berry and California Holly.
Toyon’s scientific name, Heteromeles arbutifolia, means “different apple.”
There’s debate surrounding the plant’s association with the naming of Hollywood. [See link in resources.]
A California native, Toyon is an evergreen shrub. It grows from sea level to scrub oak zones up to 4,000 ft. elevation; it’s drought tolerant and accepts a variety of soil types— including clay.
Specially adapted to flourish after fire, Toyon root crowns store carbohydrates allowing the plant to quickly send up new sprouts.
Established shrubs, reaching 8 to 10 feet in height, have lower water requirements than young plants.
Small white flower bunches appear in June and July.
While fruit is developing, berries contain a cyanogenic glucoside, a toxic substance, that protects them from being eaten.
As the fruit ripens, turning red, the cyanogenic glucoside moves from the pulp into the seeds.
Birds and some mammals, such as coyote and bear, eat Toyon berries in the fall.
For humans, the taste of fresh berries is bitter. It’s a good idea to spit out the seeds.
Heating berries before eating removes some of the bitterness.
HISTORIC HUMAN FRUIT CONSUMPTION
Bark and leaf tea for stomach problems and wound infections – Kumeyaay people and other Native Tribes
Leaf infusions – menstruation regulation – Costanoan people
Sun parching – Luiseno people (southern California)
Thirst quencher – Mahuna people
Wine, custard, jelly, and porridge – Spanish and American settlers
Once the minerals were exhausted, many hastily built mining towns were abandoned. Grass Valley and Nevada City persisted after the Gold Rush because San Francisco investors gambled on hard rock mining, water rights, and power generation.
Large cattle ranches had become established. Lumber mills continued to operate, supplying timber for the railroad (mid-1860’s through 1870’s). Railroads moved goods and people between coasts.
The age of the automobile, beginning in the early 1900’s, led to road development. By the end of WWII, in the 1940’s, travel and outdoor recreation had become a trend that middle-class America embraced.
1950: Freeway Proposal
Traffic problems between Nevada City and Grass Valley were documented by the California Division of Highways. Logging trucks jammed narrow roads. Some residents remember it taking between 30-45 minutes to drive between towns, a distance of 4.2 miles.
1951: Choosing Sides – Historical Preservation vs. Commerce Development
If there was a historic rivalry before, the coming of the freeway strengthened it. Folks were divided about where the road should go. Some merchants thought that downtown offramps would stimulate business while others lamented about the loss of historic buildings.
1960’s: Freeway Construction Begins
In the early 1960’s right-of-ways had been obtained, structures were removed and dirt work commenced. When the building contractor declared bankruptcy, it took the Highway Department nearly a year to secure a replacement.
Nevada City residents, disturbed by the altered landscape, called the Broad Street area a ‘Calamity Cut.’
1965: Beryl Robinson came in as Nevada City Manager. Downtown was in trouble. He inherited ‘a mess.’
1968: The controversy and upset over the freeway project may have garnered public support for Nevada City Historical Ordinance 338, written by Bill Wetherall, Nevada City’s Attorney. (The ordinance governs preservation of Mother Lode architecture. It was the first one written in the State of California.)
“Nevada City’s future is in the preservation of its past,”
is a quote from former City Council member and mayor, Bob Paine, that hung in City Hall for many years during that time.
1969: Freeway is Complete
In December, twenty-two two years after the first traffic survey, the Golden Center Freeway opened for traffic.
City Freeway Expenditures
$7,000,000 spent by the City of Grass Valley
$5,000,000 spent by the City of Nevada City
1972: Nevada City received a grant to move utilities underground. Gaslights were installed. Neon signs removed.
Thanks to keen observers, county civic organizations, and city leaders the historic Mother Lode charm of Grass Valley and Nevada City remains. Since their beginnings, the towns along the Deer Creek watershed have been community gathering places, a hub of entertainment and a place to enjoy nature.
Nevada City’s Mission Statement – The City of Nevada City is dedicated to preserving and enhancing its small-town character and historical architecture while providing quality public services for our current and future residents, businesses, and visitors.
Grass Valley Mission Statement – The City of Grass Valley’s Public Works Department is committed to providing essential municipal infrastructure maintenance and improvement services that preserve and enhance the quality of life in our community for residents, businesses and visitors alike, while providing a safe and productive work environment for Department employees.
Moving forward, if lessons learned are heeded, the area will continue to thrive while remembering and honoring its past.
Nevada City – Housing element 2014-2019 [PDF]
The focus on preservation of a strong sense of community, coupled with geographic, topographic, and infrastructure constraints has limited growth to a slow, manageable pace.