E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Berberis aquifolium
tall Oregon-grape
Berberidaceae (Barberry family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Brian Klinkenberg  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #19779)

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Distribution of Berberis aquifolium
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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

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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.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Habitat / 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.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Berberis 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) 15 920 2400
Slope Gradient (%) 0 28 240
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 193 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 3 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number 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)

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Mahonia aquifolium (Pursh) Nutt.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References