Mahonia aquifolium (Berberis aquifolium)
Tall Oregon grape is an evergreen shrub related to the barberry. Some authors submerge Mahonia in the barberry genus, Berberis. The plant is not related to grapes, but gets the name from the purple clusters of berries. It is closely related to creeping Oregon grape (Mahonia repens) and “Cascade” or dwarf Oregon grape (M. nervosa).
Tall Oregon grape grows to 1-5 m tall. Its leathery leaves resemble holly and the stems and twigs have a thickened, corky appearance. The flowers, borne in late spring, are an attractive yellow.
Oregon grape is used in landscaping similarly to barberry, suited for low-maintenance plantings and loose evergreen hedges. Oregon grape is resistant to summer drought, tolerates poor soils, and does not create excessive leaf litter. Its berries attract birds.
The small purplish-black fruits are edible, but quite tart/bitter and contain large seeds. They are generally not eaten without being sweetened first, but make a tasty jelly, especially in combination with salal berries. The evergreen foliage is sometimes used by florists for greenery and a small gathering industry has been established in the Pacific Northwest. The inner bark of the larger stems and roots of Oregon grape yield a yellow dye.
Oregon grape is a native plant on the North American west coast from British Columbia to northern California, occurring in the understory of Douglas-fir forests and in brushlands. It is the state flower of Oregon.
- Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
- Water Requirements: Dry, Moist
- Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
- Growth Rate: Moderate
- Spreads: Yes
- Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Hummingbirds, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
- Edible: Yes
- Mature Height: 5-8ft
- Mature Width: 2-8ft