80228Oregon has good taste. Douglas fir, one of the most useful of timber trees in America, was selected as the state tree. Oregon grape, Mahonia aquifolium, was designated as the state flower. Although the tight clusters of tiny bright yellow flowers that bloom about now may not be as flashy as other state flowers, they contrast handsomely against the glossy and deep dark green foliage.

The pinnately compound evergreen leaves are larger than they seem to be. The smaller individual leaflets that resemble holly get noticed first. They are are not quite as wavy, spiny or thick as leaves of English holly are, so can work well where spiny foliage would be objectionable. Dark grayish blue berries are not abundant, but happen to make good jelly for those who hunt for them.

Mature plants get about five feet tall and broad, and can spread wider like Heavenly bamboo does. Foliage might be a richer shade of deep green, with a slightly more relaxed texture, in partial shade. A few garden varieties are available, including some that are more compact, and some with more rounded leaflets. Old canes should be pruned out as they get replaced by newer canes.

15 thoughts on “Oregon Grape

  1. It’s good to see someone singing the praises of mahonia! They are are in flower here just now – usually planted for their foliage and the yellow flowers that come at a time when there’s not much floral colour around, but they are a good source of food for the bees too.

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    1. They fit into unrefined landscapes so nicely. Unfortunately, ‘gardeners’ shear them like they shear nandina. Once in a while someone prunes them by alternating canes, and they are really splendid. I think they look like what English holly would look like if it were a perennial. They work well with redwoods and other evergreens. Besides, I really like Oregon.

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    1. Oh, I actually do not know. I know that they can do well in exposed situations here, but I do not know if they could be as exposed in the heat of San Joaquin Valley. I know that they tolerate more frost then they get here.

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  2. I also grow a Mahonia, though not the native one that Steve mentions–I’ve never had luck with that one. Mine is the Mahonia bealei and they’re in bloom now, for which my honeybees are very grateful. There’s another native mahonia here in Central Texas, Mahonia swaseyi, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it at a nursery, which it too bad. I know Oregon grape–a nice plant!

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    1. There are cultlivars of Mahonia that I had always thought were Oregon grape, but they may be other specie or hybrids. If they were not so commonly ruined by gardeners, they would be a plant that should be more popular than it is.


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