Oregon Grape, Mahonia aquifolium

Mahonia aquifolium is a species of flowering plant from the family Berberidaceae. The plant may also be referred to as the Oregon grape. It is an evergreen shrub and typically blooms in early spring.

M. aquifolium can grow up to 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide. It has pinnate leaves that measure up to 12 inches. Each leaf is made up of spiny leaflets. The leaves have a leathery appearance that resembles holly, while the stems have a thick, cork-like appearance. The flowers of the plant grow in thick clusters in the spring with yellow blooms. It produces round and dark blue berries. This is what gives it the common name, “Oregon grape”.

The small purplish-black fruits that the M. aquifolium produce contain large seeds and taste quite tart. It is used to make jelly and can be fermented and utilized to make wine, although quite a bit more sugar is added than to normal wine grapes. The berries are also used by some for purple dye.

M. Aquifolium can be found in the North American West, from Southeast Alaska all the way to Northern California. It can be found in the brushlands of the Cascades, Rockies, and northern Sierras.

Image Caption: Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium). Credit: Meggar/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)