Mahonia aquifolium (Pursh) Nutt.
tall Oregon-grape (hollyleaved barberry)
Berberidaceae (Barberry family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants


© Brian Klinkenberg     (Photo ID #19779)


E-Flora BC Static Map

Distribution of Mahonia aquifolium
Click here to view the full interactive map and legend


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

Species Information

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.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


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.

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Late Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Blue
Present over the Summer
Source:  The USDA


Ecological Framework for Mahonia aquifolium

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres)
920 15 2400
Slope Gradient (%)
28 0 240

Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]

193 0 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
3 0 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
# of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal 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)

Habitat and Range

Mesic to dry open or closed forests in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; common in S BC; E to AB and S to ID and OR.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Synonyms and Alternate Names:
Berberis aquifolium Pursh
Berberis aquifolium var. aquifolium
Berberis piperiana (Abrams) McMinn
Mahonia piperiana Abrams
Odostemon aquifolium (Pursh) Rydb.