Summary of coffee berry and its traditional use

Kumeyaay name: inyekhaay

Coffee Berry (Frangula californica)


Coffee berry, also known as California Buckthorn, is named for its seeds, which look like coffee beans.

It is a fairly common plant native to California and southwestern Oregon. It is a dense evergreen shrub growing to 6-15 feet tall, with dark red branches. The leaves are an attractive green with reddish tint, 1-3 inches long, with a curl under at the edges. The blooms are inconspicuous, small and greenish-white and grow in clusters of 5-60 together. The fruit is a berry, which turns red, then purple and finally black over the summer. Various birds are attracted to the fruits and seeds


Kumeyaay people use both the bark and berries of this plant. The bark is stored, boiled and used in a decoction as a physic or to treat poison oak. An infusion of berries is also taken as a tonic.