Hansen's Northwest Native Plant Database

Mahonia [Berberis] aquifolium (Tall Oregon Grape, Hollyleaved Barberry)


 Plantae – Plants


 Tracheobionta – Vascular plants


 Spermatophyta – Seed plants


 Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants


 Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons






 Berberidaceae – Barberry family


 Mahonia Nutt. – barberry


 Mahonia aquifolium (Pursh) Nutt. – hollyleaved barberry

Note: Throughout the years I've written short articles for our website's home pages (home pages are the front page of a website) about these plants. They are now included at the bottom of this page, and are illustrated by botanical drawings and paintings, some of which are from books published from 1500 - 1900.

This superb evergreen shrub is the State flower of Oregon.

Hardy in USDA zones 5-10, it is at home along the Pacific coast from BC to northern California.

Oregon Grape can reach 10' tall, but is usually 5' in gardens.

In spring, large clusters of small golden flowers unfurl from shiny green, holly-like foliage.

New growth is copper color in the spring.

The blue fruits are tart and improve after frost. They are often gathered for jelly or wine. Used to treat a wide variety of ailments, Oregon Grape species contain the extremely potent alkaloid, berberine, (also found in goldenseal) which is antiseptic and stimulates the liver and spleen.

Use this plant for hedges, borders and drifts.

It flourishes in sun or shade and is highly drought tolerant: perfect for the northwest.

For a short comparison of native Oregon Grapes, click here.

From Homepage March 20, 2004

How beautiful is our Oregon State flower, the Tall Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium)! An evergreen shrub, this Oregon Grape is good looking all year. After the lovely yellow flower clusters have gone by, true blue berries will take their place. Birds and small wildlife are attracted to these berries but they'll usually leave enough for you to admire. The contrast between the blue fruits and the glossy green foliage is picture perfect. Wintertime, your Tall Oregon Grape will color it's leaves to bronze, only to green up again when spring comes round. They grow quickly and make a great fence!

While Tall Oregon Grape grows 5 - 10 feet tall, the Cascade Oregon Grape is only 2 feet tall. It's leaves are longer than it's tall relative. A good plant for filling in spaces where you want a hardy, colorful plant with no care required. The Creeping Oregon Grape is one of our favorite ground covers. It has the same features as the other two grapes but grows about 12 - 18" tall. Even grows well where the climate gives hot summers and cold winters.

From Homepage June 3, 2005

Here's a recipe for a fine jam made from those Oregon Grapes:


1 quart Oregon Grapes (Mahonia aquifolia or other Mahonias)

3 apples, peeled, cored and cut into small pieces

1 box fruit pectin

7 1/2 cups sugar

1 - 12 oz can frozen concord grape juice concentrate

Enough water ready to add to grape, apple pulps and juice concentrate to make the measurement of 6 cups.

8 - 8oz jars, lids and rims

Take out about 1/4 cup grapes and a heaping tablespoon of small apple pieces and set aside. Then follow the cooking steps for grape jam inside the pectin package adding the set-aside fruits to the jars just before sealing. If you don't have enough wild Oregon Grapes at one time, you can freeze them until you have enough.


This recipe is from a woman in Coquille, Oregon, which is along the southern Oregon Coast. Her name is Rachel Ordway Smith. She has other recipes using fruits from northwest native plants on her web site at www.artsdesire.org/.

From Homepage July 21, 2006

In 1899, the state legislature designated, by resolution, the Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) as the Oregon state flower. According to the Oregon Blue Book:

"A low growing plant, the Oregon Grape is native to much of the Pacific coast and is found sparsely east of the Cascades. Its year-round foliage of pinnated, waxy green leaves resembles holly. The plant bears dainty yellow flowers in early summer and a dark blue berry that ripens late in the fall. The fruit can be used in cooking."

Did you know......

Besides a state flower, Oregon also has:

  • A state animal (the American Beaver [castor canadensis], named by the 1969 legislature)

  • A state beverage (milk, selected in 1997)

  • A state bird (the Western Meadowlark [Sturnella neglecta], chosen in 1927 by a poll taken among Oregon's school children sponsored by the Oregon Audubon Society)

  • A state dance (the square dance, declared by legislature in 1977)

  • A state fish (the Chinook salmon [Oncorhynchus tshawytscha], declared by legislature in 1961)

  • A Father of Oregon (bestowed on Dr. John McLoughlin by legislature in 1957)

  • A state flag which does not have a name but was adopted in 1925

  • A state fossil (the Metasequoia or Dawn Redwood, designated by resolution in 2005 by the legislature)

  • A state fruit (the pear [Pyrus communis], named by the 2005 legislature)

  • A state gemstone (the Oregon sunstone, named by resolution by 1987 legislature)

  • A state insect (the Oregon Swallowtail [Papilio oregonius], designated by the 1979 legislature)

  • A Mother of Oregon (Tabitha Moffat Brown, honored by the 1987 legislature)

  • A state motto ("She flies with her own wings," adopted by the 1987 legislature)

  • A state mushroom (the Pacific golden chanterelle [Cantharellus formosus], recognized by the 1999 legislature)

  • A state nut (the hazelnut [Corylus avellana], named by the 1989 legislature)

  • A state rock (the Thunder-egg [geode], named by the 1965 legislature)

  • A state seashell (the Oregon hairy triton [Fusitriton oregonensis), designated by legislature in 1991. The shell was named by a conchologist named Redfield)

  • A state seal (no nickname for this one either. It was created by Harvey Gordon, amended by a committee of 3 which had been named by the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1857, and became official in 1859)

  • A state song (Oregon My Oregon, written in 1920 by J.A. Buchanan and Henry B. Murtagh, became the state song in 1927)

  • A state tree (the Douglas-fir [Pseudotsuga menziesii], designated in 1939)

From Homepage November 18, 2004

Oregon's state flower is the versatile evergreen Tall Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium). Easy to grow in so many climates, the beautiful foliage, yellow flowers and dusky blue edible berries give continuously changing beauty.

The leaves have sharp points, perfect for planting under a bedroom window or as a hedge to discourage unwanted visitors.

Brighten a shady corner with the Tall Oregon Grape in the background, Cascade Oregon Grape in the middle and Creeping Oregon Grape groundcover. Wow!

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