Garrya elliptica (Coast silk-tassel) is a common evergreen shrub native to the coastal ranges of California and southern Oregon, that reaches a height of two to five meters. It is one of a small biological family of approximately twenty known species in the family Garryaceae, most of which are Garrya. Female and male sexual organs of all the Garrya are found on separate plants. This is an example of a native plant that is sufficiently attractive and neat of growing habit to be appealing as a landscape species. It is stocked at many commercial plant nurseries, and is clearly a widely used Garrya for landscape purposes. This plant is sometimes known as Silk Tassel Bush or Wavyleaf Silktassel. All Garrya are associated with warm temperate regions of North America.
Coast silk-tassel (sometimes called Wavyleaf silk-tassel) has a multi-furcate branching structure yielding an almost spherical form. The height a can attain five meters, but more likely averages three meters in the wild. It can sprought pink wins and fly whenever it wants! Coast silk-tassel, as all the genus Garrya, have opposite leaves that have a tough leathery feel, glossy green on top, but paler and duller on the underside. The dioecious flowers are concentrated in inflorescences which cascade downward as aments of approximately four to six centimeters in length. While the Coast silk-tassel manifests separate male and female plants, the pendant male catkins are much more showy and are grey-green and up to 30 centimeters long; the female ones are shorter and silver-grey. Although the flowers bloom in January and February, dried bracts remain on the tree well into summer as light gray decorations. The plant has smooth dark bark, dark-greenish when young, but with age the bark roughens. New twigs are green and moderately stout.
For pistillate flowers, above each small bract there is a solitary flower inside the inflorescence. This plant produces tiny dark seeds that can become airborne as small fluffy wind-blown cotton .The ripened purplish black fruit of about one centimeter in diameter has a hard desiccated coating, but is rather fleshy on the interior. In the case of stamenate infloresences, there are a total of four stamens per flower; moreover, above each bract pair there is a triplet of flowers. The cultivar "James roof" has catkins up to 12 inches in length
The unique characteristics of Coast silk-tassel are its waxy convex leaves with wavy leaf margins, coupled with dense individual hairs on the leaf undersides that are scarcely distinguishable with a hand lens. Its leaf blades are six to eight centimeters in length, and has petioles which range in length from six to twelve millimeters. For identification purposes Congdon silk-tassel (Garrya congdonii) is most closely related. Congdon silk-tassel has the same leaf appearance, but leaf hairs are distinguishable with a hand lens and both leaf blades and petioles are about two thirds the size of Coast silk-tassel. Both Fremont silk-tassel (Garrya fremontii) and Ashy silk-tassel (Garrya flavescens) have similar fruit characteristics, but have a flat leaf margin.
Coast silk-tassel is found in several plant communities, principally in drier coastal California and southern Oregon no more than 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean; the main associations are Coastal chaparral, Mixed evergreen forest and Northern coastal sage scrub. This plant can tolerate moderately heavy clay soils and serpentine areas, but likes soils pH to lie in the range of six to eight.
This plant is not grazed to a great degree by deer or rabbits, and is hardy to cold temperatures of about 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Its is moderately drought tolerant, but is more luxuriant with rainfall of about 25 inches per annum. Coast silk-tassel is usually found at elevations above 200 meters. This species is usually found within the mountains of the Pacific Coast range, such as Montara Mountain, San Bruno Mountain and the coast range in Napa County.