|Monday Melange: Oregon Grape Holly|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Monday, 23 December 2013|
Native to the Pacific Northwest, Oregon grape holly (Mahonia aquifolium) is a broadleaf evergreen whose range extends from British Columbia south to Northern California. Also known as holly-leaved barberry because its leaves resemble those of English holly, Oregon grape holly is hardy between USDA zones 5 and 9 and is the state flower of Oregon.
Despite its common name of “holly”, Oregon grape holly is not a holly at all. Rather, it’s a member of the barberry plant family, Berberidaceae. Many members of the barberry family are considered noxious weeds. Japanese barberry is a particularly invasive species.
Oregon grape holly is a shrub with an upright habit that grows to a height of 3 to 60 feet tall and equally wide in cultivation. Its habitat in the wild includes rocky slopes in the coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest. It is shade tolerant but prefers part shade and easy to grow in many soil types. The fragrant bright yellow flowers may appear as early as December and January, particularly in California where winters are very mild. The flowers are edible and can be batter fried or boiled to make a lemonade-like drink. The beautiful deep bluish-purple fruits, much like grapes, grow in bunches and are adored by birds.
In order for plants to bear fruit in quantity, plant Oregon grape holly in groups of 3 to 5 or more. It is typically used in foundation plantings or in woodland gardens, but can also be planted as a low hedgerow or shrub border. Oregon grape holly grows by root suckers via underground stems called stolons and easily forms large colonies. To prevent this remove suckers on a regular basis.
Photo source: www.mobot.org