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The Fernleaf Catalina ironwood is native to San Clemente, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Islands off the Coast of Southern California. It grows on north facing slopes and in canyons where it can receive additional moisture from winter rains. In ornamental landscapes it is an evergreen tree that can reach heights of 25 ft. to 35 ft. tall with a tall and upright form. Its evergreen leaves are often pinnately divided into 3-7 leaflets with deeply lobed margins. Creamy white flowers occur in large clusters in early spring.

Fernleaf Catalina ironwood is an attractive native tree that grows best in well-drained soils and limited amounts of summer water. Care is similar to the needs of our native oaks; allow leaf litter to accumulate below the canopy; minimize soil compaction and understory plantings; restrict summer irrigation to infrequent, deep applications. This tree grow well on slopes and in background areas in residential and commercial landscapes.

Water Needs

Supplemental watering for the Fernleaf Catalina ironwood tree should be scheduled mostly for fall and winter months with the goal of subsidizing the natural rainfall season during dry spells and drought cycles. Spring and summer irrigation should be minimal; mostly in support of younger trees until they are established. A baseline irrigation schedule is shown below that illustrates seasonal irrigation around ironwood trees. It should be noted there are several months marked by an asterisk (*) when winter rains can provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed.

Irrigation Schedule and Graph

Low Water Use Plants

Irrigation Schedule 1

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
Runs per Month 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x
Inches per Run 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1"
Inches per Month 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 0" to 2" 0" to 2"

Range of supplemental summer water: 7"
Range of supplemental winter water: 0"-10"

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
For more information on how to use this Irrigation Schedule and Graph, follow this link.

For information how to calculate your irrigation system’s schedule and precipitation rate, please follow this link.

Plant Properties

Plant Type: Tree, Native
Foliage Character: Evergreen
Habit: Upright, Narrow, Mounding, Dense
Growth Rate: Fast
Height: 25 ft. - 50 ft.
Width: 25 ft. - 35 ft.
Water Needs: Low 1
Foliage Color: Dark green
Flower Color: White, Cream, Brown
Flower Season: Summer, Spring
Soil Adaptations: Well-draining soil, Clay
Exposure Adaptations: Morning sun, All day sun
Function: Wildlife value, Specimen, Slopes, Shade Tree, Screening, Residential spaces, Parks and open space, Flowering accent plant, California native, Banks, Background plant


Prune in Summer, after flowering. Will eventually sprout from the base. If you don't want any more trunks on the tree (most cases), remove sprouts as they appear (3). Easiest to keep healthy by growing in a location that does not get reflected heat and does get some afternoon shade in inland gardens (S).



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