Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Mahonia aquifolium

Holly-leaved barberry, Holly-leaf Oregon-grape

Berberidaceae (Barberry Family)

Mahonia aquifolium (Holly-leaved barberry)
Makin, Julie
Holly-leaf Oregon-grape is a 3-6 ft., mound-shaped, broadleaf evergreen shrub with pinnately compound, glossy, leathery leaves. The 5-9 dark-green leaflets are armed with spiny teeth and turn reddish in fall. Terminal clusters of bright-yellow, bell-shaped flowers are followed by clusters of tiny blue, grape-like fruits. The bronzy copper color or the new growth in spring is an added bonus.

This stout shrub is the state flower of Oregon. The berries of this and other Oregon-grape species are eaten by wildlife and make good jelly. Native Americans made a yellow dye from the bark and wood of this shrubby species. Several are used as ornamental garden plants; in the nursery trade some of them are known by the common name Mahonia.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf: Green
Fruit: Blue
Size Class: 6-12 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May


USA: CA , ID , KY , MI , MT , NJ , NY , OH , OR , WA , DC
Canada: BC
Native Distribution: B.C. to ID & n.w. MT, s. to n. CA
Native Habitat: Deep, conifer forests; open, rocky woods

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Moist, well-drained, acid loams.
Conditions Comments: Protect this plant from drying winter winds. Leaf scorch can be severe. Barberry aphids, scale and whiteflies can be a problem.


Use Ornamental: Widely used as an ornamental and has been reported as an escape from cultivation across the continent.
Use Wildlife: Berries are relished by a variety of wildlife.
Use Medicinal: Medicinally, various root preparations of Berberis aquifolium were used by Native Americans for stomach trouble, hemorrhages, and tuberculosis; as a panacea, a tonic, a gargle, and an eye wash; and to purify blood. Leaves and roots were used in steam baths to treat yellow fever; karok was used as a poison; and the tips of stems were used to treat stomach aches (D. E. Moermann 1986).
Conspicuous Flowers: yes

Last Update: 2016-03-02