Mahonia aquifolium (Pursh) Nutt. (Berberis aquifolium Pursh)
Evergreen shrub from a rhizome; stems branched, stoloniferous to stiffly erect, 0.5-2.5 meters tall; bark and wood yellowish. Leaves: Evergreen, holly-like, alternate, pinnate; leaflets usually five to eleven, pinnately nerved more than twice as long as broad, mostly with 12-29 prominent spiny teeth, shiny above but less so beneath. Flowers: Inflorescence of clustered racemes 3-8 cm long; flowers yellow, the segments in sixes. Fruits: Clustered berries 7-14 mm in diameter, blue, glaucous, with a few large seeds, edible (Douglas et al., 1998).
barberry, tall mahonia, shining Oregon-grape
Mesic to dry open or closed forests in the lowland steep and montane zones (Douglas et al., 1998), open sites (Pojar et al., 1994) and woods and thickets (Peck, 1961). Occurs from southern BC south through Washington, Oregon to California. Found from sea level to 1800 m in BC (Pojar and MacKinnon, 1994).
Rocky sites with coarse and medium textured, well-drained soils (Pojar and MacKinnon, 1994).
Nitrogen-medium soils (Klinka et al., 1989).
soil reaction salinity
pH 5 to 8 (USDA NRCS, 2001).
Moderately drought tolerant (Keator, 1994). Dry to moderately-dry; characteristic of moisture deficient sites (Klinka et al., 1989).
Shade tolerant but prefers open exposed sites (Klinka et al., 1989).
Early successional to climax. Common on disturbed sites and under open-canopy Douglas-fir forests in the coast and interior (Klinka et al., 1989).
bec zone subzone status
CDF, IDF, ICH dry, PP, BG
Good species for stabilization of dry exposed sites because of its rhizomatous growth habit.
Occasional winter browse of deer and elk (USDA, 1988). Leaves and fruit eaten by small birds and mammals.
High quality landscaping plant. Useful in shrub borders, mixing well with other evergreen species. Showy, fragrant yellow flowers; edible berries; evergreen with some colour change in winter (S. Bastin, personal communication).
Eaten mixed with salal or other sweet fruit. Shredded bark or roots used to dye basket materials bright-yellow. Bark and berries used medicinally for liver, gall-bladder and eye problems. (Pojar and MacKinnon, 1994).
Used in floral arrangements. Used to make jellies, preserves and wine.
April - early May
fruit ripening time
Mid-July – August
seed collection time
August - September
no seeds per kg
Germination variable - 30-50% (Marchant and Sherlock 1984).
collection and abstraction
Hand picking or flail onto cloths. Macerate berries immediately in water using a blender, and screen out or float off the pulp. Check fruits frequently prior to collection to determine collection timing and to avoid losses to birds and mammals. Mature seeds are a dark burgundy in colour and 3-5 mm in length.
Dry seed superficially and store in sealed containers at 2-5º C (Rudolf, 1974; Banerjee et al., 2001).
fruit seed dormancy treatment
Stored seeds cold stratified for 90 days before planting in the spring. Alternatively for best results, sow seeds in fall covered with 0.3-1.3 cm of soil plus 0.5 cm of sand, and mulch until germination begins (Rose et al., 1998).
additional info and photos
For more information and pictures, visit the E-Flora BC website at www.eflora.bc.ca.