This lovely native evergreen shrub has thick dark green holly-like foliage on stems to about six feet tall. The buds begin to form in winter and open in early spring with bright clusters of yellow flowers. These are followed by deep blue ornamental fruits that mother robins feed to their young in my garden. The yellow pigment derived from the roots of this plant was used as a dye by First Nations peoples of British Columbia.
Note Author: Gary Lewis, Phoenix Perennials
Evergreen shrub from a rhizome; stems branched, stoloniferous to stiffly erect, 0.5-2.5 (4.5) m tall; bark and wood yellowish.
Evergreen, hollylike, alternate, pinnate; leaflets usually 5-11, pinnately nerved, more than twice as long as broad, mostly with 12-29 prominent spiny teeth, shiny above but less so beneath.
Inflorescence of clustered racemes 3-8 cm long; flowers yellow, the segments in 6's.
Clustered berries 7-14 mm in diameter, blue, glaucous, with a few large seeds, edible.
If more than one illustration is available for a species (e.g., separate illustrations were provided for two subspecies) then links to the separate images will be provided below. Note that individual subspecies or varietal illustrations are not always available.
Illustration Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia
Present over the Summer
Source: The USDA
||Value / Class
Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
of field plots
species was recorded in:
BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in
|AT(1), BG(19), CDF(57), CWH(37), ESSF(42), ICH(1387), IDF(1849), MS(530), PP(146), SBPS(34), SBS(265)|
Source: Klinkenberg 2013
Synonyms and Alternate Names:
Berberis aquifolium Pursh
Berberis aquifolium var. aquifolium
Berberis piperiana (Abrams) McMinn
Mahonia piperiana Abrams
Odostemon aquifolium (Pursh) Rydb.
Taxonomic Key to Mahonia
1. Leaflets usually 9-19, palmately nerved.....................................M. nervosa
1. Leaflets usually 3-11, pinnately nerved
2. Leaves more than twice as long as broad, mostly with 12-29 prominent spiny teeth; leaflets 5-11; plants 0.5-4.5 m tall.......................M. aquifolium
2. Leaves less than twice as long as broad, with 15-43 inconspicuous, spiny teeth; leaflets 3-7; plant 0.1--.6 m tall.........................M. repens