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Home > Landscaping > Native Plants for Western Washington Gardens and Restoration Projects



Mahonia aquifolium

Tall Oregon Grape

Flowering Period: Apr, May April May
Flower color: yellow
Mostly sunny Partial sun
Moist soil Dry soil


At a Glance: Erect, stiff-branched shrub with holly-like leaves and clusters of yellow flowers.

Height: 2.5 - 6.5 feet (0.8 meters - 2 meters).
Growth Form: Shrub.
Stems: Bark and stems are yellowish due to an alkaloid berberine.
Leaves: Leaves are alternately arranged, turn red/purple in winter, 5-11 leathery leaflets per leaf, leaflets are spiny toothed margins with a glossy topside and prominent red central veins; shape: oblong to elliptic; size: 8-24 cm (3-10 in) long.
Flowers: Many in erect clusters that are up to 20 cm (8 in) long, flower parts in sixes; primary color: bright yellow; size: about 0.5 cm (0.25 inches) long.
Flowering Period: April, May.
Fruits: Berries are 4-7 mm diameter, ovoid; dark blue with a white bloom; contain a few large seeds 4-5 mm long; flowers are born in an elongated cluster.

Mahonia aquifolium
Photo © Heidi Bohan
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Sun/Shade Tolerance Hydrology Elevation Range
More tolerant of open sites than Mahonia nervosa.

full sun > 80%
mostly sunny 60%-80%
partial sun and shade 40%- 60%
mostly shady 60%-80%
full shade > 80%

More tolerant of drier sites than Mahonia nervosa.

wet
moist
dry

Wetland Indicator Status:
NI (no indicator data)
Below 1200 meters elevation.

low elevation
mid elevation
sub-alpine
high elevation


Soil Preferences
Tolerant of nutrient-poor, rocky soils.
sandy soils
gravelly soils
clay soils
muddy soils
peaty soils
well drained soils
shallow soils
deep soils
acidic soils
basic soils
humic soils
nutrient rich soils
nutrient poor soils
mineral soils
organic soils

Habitat Preferences
Aquatic and Wetland:
Ponds or lakes
Shallow pools
Sloughs
Swales or wet ditches
Seasonally inundated areas
Marshes or swamps
Aquatic bed wetlands
Emergent wetlands
Scrub-shrub wetlands
Forested wetlands
Bogs, fens
Seeps, springs
Shorelines and Riparian:
Lake shores
Bog margins
Streams or rivers
Stream or river banks
Riparian corridors
River bars
Floodplains
Bottomlands
Alluvial areas
Saltwater Areas:
In or near saltwater
Mud flats
Tidal areas
Estuaries
Saltmarshes
Brackish water
Seashores
Coastal dunes or beaches
Rocky or Gravelly Areas:
Coastal bluffs
Cliffs
Rocky slopes
Outcrops
Crevices
Glacial outwash
Gullies
Slide areas
Sub-alpine and Alpine:
Heaths
Snow beds
Tundra
Avalanche tracks
Forests and Thickets:
Forests and woods
Open forests
Coniferous forests
Old growth forests
Deciduous forests
Mixed forests
Nurse logs
Forest edges, openings, or clearings
Thickets
Meadows and Fields:
Pastures or fields
Meadows or grassy areas
Mossy areas
Disturbed Areas:
Roadsides
Trailsides
Logged sites
Burned areas
Disturbed sites

Wildlife Value
Berries
Seeds
Nectar for hummingbirds
Nectar for butterflies
Host for insect larvae
Thickets and shelter
Thorny or protective cover

Birds: The berries are eaten by many birds including grouse, pheasants, robins, waxwings, juncos, sparrows, and towhees.
Insects: Orchard mason bees and painted lady butterflies use the nectar.
Mammals: Foxes, raccoons, and coyotes eat the berries. Deer and elk will occasionally browse the leaves and flowers.


Ethnobotanical Uses and Other Facts
Food Uses: Fruits are edible.
Landscape Uses: Use as a hedge or individually; prune lightly.


Suggested References



The landscaping and restoration information provided on this page is taken from the Starflower Foundation Image Herbarium. All photographs © Starflower Foundation unless otherwise noted.