San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionSDNHM Field Guide
California Treefrog, by Bradford Hollingsworth.

Pseudacris cadaverina
California Treefrog


Pseudacris is from the Greek pseudes, meaning a false or deceptive, and acris, from the Greek akris, meaning a locust. This name is presumably in reference to their voice. The species name cadaverina is from the Latin cadaver, meaning a corpse, and ina, a suffix denoting a likeness to. This name is in reference to their morbid sounding call. Some researchers place this species in the genus Hyla.


These small frogs range is size from 1 to 2 inches and have slightly expanded toe pads with truncated ends. Their dorsal skin is moderately pustulate, or bumpy. Their dorsal color pattern is typically gray or brown with dark blotches and usually no eyestripe. This cryptic coloration makes these treefrogs difficult to spot when sitting on a granitic rock. Most populations blend in with their substrate so there is a large amount of geographic variation. California Treefrogs have white undersides with yellow on the underside of the hind legs. Males have a dusky throat and a round balloon-like membranous pouch or vocal sac.

Tadpoles have a round body with eyes situated on the top of their head. Their tail has dorsal and ventral fins similar in height. The mouth is square with two denticle rows on the top and three on the bottom. Larger tadpoles are dark brown with speckling. The belly is tan.

Range and Habitat

The California Treefrog is distributed in discontinuous cismontane populations from San Luis Obispo County to Bahia de Los Angeles, Baja California. It also can be found in many of the desert-facing arroyos. It is believed to be extinct from Bahia de Los Angeles and probably is found only as far south as Catavina.

This species is found near streams and washes where there are rocks, quiet pools, and shade. They seem to prefer sitting on granites, although they may be found on other types of rocks as well.

Natural History

The California Treefrog can be found in east and west facing arroyos and seems to prefer deeply cut canyons with lots of granitic rock. The California Treefrog is most closely related to the Pacific Treefrog (Pseudacris regilla). Little is known about their life history.

Behavior: This frog is chiefly nocturnal, spending the day beneath rocks or within rock cracks. During breeding season, males will call to attract females. Within deeply cut canyons, the calling males can create a deafening noise.

Breeding: The California Treefrog breeds from February to October. Eggs are deposited singly and are slightly larger than those of the Pacific Treefrog (Pseudacris regilla).

Voice: A loud, abrupt, low-pitched, duck-like quack.

Conservation Status

There has been no proposed conservation plans.

Suggested Reading

Ball, R.W. and D.L. Jameson. 1970. Biosystematics of the Canyon Tree Frog Hyla cadaverina Cope (=Hyla californiae Gorman). Proceedings of the California Academy of Scienices, 10:363-380.

Gaudin, A.J. 1965. Larval development of the Tree Frogs Hyla regilla and Hyla californiae. Herpetologica 21:117-130.

Text by Bradford Hollingsworth and Kathy Roberts
Photo credit: Bradford Hollingsworth

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