What Evergreen Trees Look Good with Natives

Most forested or wooded native landscapes in Central and Southern California are overwhelmingly dominated by evergreen trees, exactly as our Mediterranean counterparts.

Most of these trees, if not all, range from dark-green to almost blackish-green—few (like some redwoods) tend toward to the yellow-green or occasionally bluish-green, but there are exceptions.

Look around you, at a forest of conifers (Redwood and Douglas-fir, and occasionally pine) or broadleaves (live-oaks, Bay, Madrone).

Shrub-dominated landscapes are likewise, although some species of Arctostaphylos are quite grayishgreen.  Again, overwhelmingly evergreen:  Toyon, Ceanothus, Chamise, Arctostaphylos, Rhus, Baccharis, and Salvia.

Most evergreen shrubs and trees you will find at nurseries (other than California “natives” of course) clash terribly in native-dominated surroundings and only add visual discord to an otherwise “clean”, restful landscape.  (See list of “ugly” evergreens.)

By all means, avoid:

  • Waxy-shiny-leaf plants
  • Yellow-green and variegated
  • Purple-leaf mutants
  • Large-leaf plants
  • Bright “tropical” greens

A select few? Exotics, however, meld smoothly and well with a California landscape; and not surprisingly, some of these are from the Mediterranean region.  Some of the best are:

  • Quercus suber, Q. ilex (also Q. virginiana)
  • Arbutus (all)
  • Olea?
  • Pinus pinea and halepensis (rounded pines)
  • Laurus (but not the wide-leaf form)
  • Ceratonia siliqua ?

Northern and western Mediterranean (Arbutus, Laurus, Quercus, and Pinus) rather than eastern and southern (Carob, Olive, and Date)

But there are also some choice non-Mediterranean trees, e.g.:

  • Castanopsis cuspidata (Shogun series):  a wonderful, refined, delicate, elegant tree that fits perfectly with native live-oaks, etc. but fit for the most refined patio garden (and has edible nuts to boot!?)  Would go well with bamboo also.
  • Pasania (Lithocarpus) edulis?:  Coarser but still works, and this too has edible acorns.  Another ‘Shogun’ from East Asia’s subtropics.

California evergreens:                       Mediterranean counterparts:

Arctostaphylos and Arbutus               Arbutus andrachne, A. unedo

Umbellularia californica                     Laurus

Pinus spp.                                            Pinus pinea, P. halepensis, etc.

Quercus agrifolia                                Quercus suber

Quercus wislizeni                                Quercus ilex

Quercus chrysolepis