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Mahonia aquifolium

mahonia aquifolium, mahonia aquifolium compact a
Mahonia aquifolium Oregon-grape4 or Oregon grape is a species of flowering plant in the family Berberidaceae, native to western North America It is an evergreen shrub growing to 1 m 3 ft tall by 15 m 5 ft wide, with pinnate leaves consisting of spiny leaflets, and dense clusters of yellow flowers in early spring, followed by dark bluish-black berries5


  • 1 Etymology
  • 2 Description
  • 3 Taxonomy
  • 4 Distribution
  • 5 Cultivation
  • 6 Other uses
    • 61 Herbal medicine
  • 7 Chemical constituents
  • 8 Culture
  • 9 References
  • 10 External links


The specific epithet aquifolium means "holly-leaved", referring to the spiny foliage6 The common name is often always in the UK left un-hyphenated as Oregon grape, though doing so invites confusion with the true grapes Some writers avoid this confusion by using "Oregon grape-holly", or "Oregon holly-grape" as a vernacular name for any species of mahonia It also occasionally appears in print as Oregongrape There are several common species of Oregon-grape, many with numerous cultivated varieties cultivars Among these are tall Oregon grape Mahonia aquifolium; Cascade, low, dull, or dwarf Oregon grape M nervosa; and creeping Oregon grape M repens


Mahonia aquifolium grows to 1–2 m 3 ft 3 in–6 ft 7 in tall by 15 m 5 ft wide, with pinnate leaves up to 30 cm 12 in long, each leaf made up of spiny leaflets The leathery leaves resemble holly and the stems and twigs have a thickened, corky appearance The flowers, borne in dense clusters in late spring, are yellow, and are followed by spherical dark dusty blue berries, which give rise to the common name "Oregon grape"7


Some authors place Mahonia in the barberry genus, Berberis891011 The Oregon-grape is not related to true grapes, but gets its name from the purple clusters of berries whose color and slightly dusted appearance are reminiscent of grapes

The yellow flowers are in a raceme 3–8 cm long Bombus species and other insects pollinate the flowers Each of the six stamens, opposite the petals, terminate in two spreading branches The six bright yellow petals are enclosed by six bright yellow sepals At the base of the flower are three greenish-yellow bracts Less than half as long as the sepals, only one is partially visible


Mahonia aquifolium is a native plant in the North American West from Southeast Alaska to Northern California, and eastern Alberta to central New Mexico, often occurring in the understory of Douglas-fir forests although other forest types contain the species and in brushlands in the Cascades, Rockies, and northern Sierras

In some areas outside its native range, M aquifolium has been classified as an invasive exotic species that may displace native vegetation1213


Mahonia aquifolium is a popular subject in shady or woodland plantings It is valued for its striking foliage and flowers, which often appear before those of other shrubs It is resistant to summer drought, tolerates poor soils, and does not create excessive leaf litter Its berries attract birds5

Numerous cultivars and hybrids have been developed, of which the following have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:

  • M × wagneri 'Pinnacle'14 M aquifolium × M pinnata
  • 'Apollo'15

Other usesedit

The small purplish-black fruits, which are quite tart and contain large seeds, are included in smaller quantities in the traditional diets of Pacific Northwest aboriginal peoples, mixed with Salal or another sweeter fruit Today they are sometimes used to make jelly, alone or mixed with salal16 Oregon grape juice can be fermented to make wine, similar to European barberry wine folk traditions, although it requires an unusually high amount of sugar17 The inner bark of the larger stems and roots of Oregon-grape yield a yellow dye; the berries give purple dye18 As the leaves of Oregon-grape are holly-like and resist wilting, the foliage is sometimes used by florists for greenery and a small gathering industry has been established in the Pacific Northwest

Herbal medicineedit

Some Plateau Indian tribes used Oregon grape to treat dyspepsia19

Chemical constituentsedit

M aquifolium contains 5'-methoxyhydnocarpin 5'-MHC, a multidrug resistance pump inhibitor MDR inhibitor, which works to decrease bacterial resistance to berberine in vitro20


Oregon grape is the state flower of Oregon21


  1. ^ Tropicos
  2. ^ The Plant List
  3. ^ Flora of North America vol 3
  4. ^ "BSBI List 2007" Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland Archived from the original xls on 2015-01-25 Retrieved 2014-10-17 
  5. ^ a b RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley 2008 p 1136 ISBN 1-4053-3296-4 
  6. ^ Harrison, Lorraine 2012 RHS Latin for gardeners United Kingdom: Mitchell Beazley p 224 ISBN 978-1-84533-731-5 
  7. ^ Michael P Williams 2012 "Berberis aquifolium, in Jepson Flora Project eds Jepson eFlora" Retrieved 2013-08-08 
  8. ^ Flora of North America, vol 3
  9. ^ Loconte, H, & J R Estes 1989 Phylogenetic systematics of Berberidaceae and Ranunculales Magnoliidae Systematic Botany 14:565-579
  10. ^ Marroquín, Jorge S, & Joseph E Laferrière 1997 Transfer of specific and infraspecific taxa from Mahonia to Berberis Journal of the Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science 301:53-55
  11. ^ Laferrière, Joseph E 1997 Transfer of specific and infraspecific taxa from Mahonia to Berberis Bot Zhurn 829:96-99
  12. ^ North Carolina Botanical Garden / Conservation / Plants to Avoid in the Southeastern United States
  13. ^ Plants to Avoid in the Southeastern United States Tennessee Invasive Exotic Plant List
  14. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Mahonia × wagneri 'Pinnacle'" Retrieved 13 April 2015 
  15. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Mahonia aquifolium 'Apollo'" Retrieved 13 April 2015 
  16. ^ Pojar, Jim; MacKinnon, Andy, eds 1994 Plants of Coastal British Columbia: including Washington, Oregon & Alaska, rev ed Vancouver: Lone Pine Publishing p 95 ISBN 978-1-55105-532-9 
  17. ^ Henderson, Robert K 2000 The Neighbourhood Forager Toronto, Ontario: Key Porter Books p 111 ISBN 1-55263-306-3 
  18. ^ Bliss, Anne 1993 North American Dye Plants, rev and enl ed Loveland, Colorado: Interweave Press p 130 ISBN 0-934026-89-0 
  19. ^ Hunn, Eugene S 1990 Nch'i-Wana, "The Big River": Mid-Columbia Indians and Their Land University of Washington Press p 352 ISBN 0-295-97119-3 
  20. ^ Stermitz FR, Lorenz P, Tawara JN, Zenewicz LA, Lewis K February 2000 "Synergy in a medicinal plant: antimicrobial action of berberine potentiated by 5'-methoxyhydnocarpin, a multidrug pump inhibitor" Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 97 4: 1433–7 PMC 26451  PMID 10677479 doi:101073/pnas030540597 
  21. ^ "State Symbols: Flag to Motto" Oregon Blue Book Oregon Secretary of State 2012 Retrieved 1 January 2013 

External linksedit

  • The Oregon Grape in "Our State Flowers: The Floral Emblems Chosen by the Commonwealths", The National Geographic Magazine, XXXI June 1917, pp 481–517
  • Mahonia aquifolium images at bioimagesvanderbiltedu
  • USDA Plants Profile for Mahonia aquifolium hollyleaved barberry
  • Jepson eFlora TJM2 treatment of Berberis aquifolium
  • Calflora Database: Berberis aquifolium Oregon grape, mountain grape
  • Flora of North America @ eflorasorg: Berberis aquifolium — syn; formerly: Mahonia aquifolium
  • UC Photos gallery: Berberis aquifolium
  • Mountain Grape from Botanicalcom

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