Native To Know: The Oregon Grape Holly

img 15781 1024x768 Native To Know: The Oregon Grape Holly

Originally gaining popularity with New Englanders after the Lewis and Clark expedition brought seeds back from the Pacific Northwest, this little known plant will dazzle you with it’s unusual shape and year round color and interest.

What You’ll Love:

  • Blooms in January! The Mahonia holds on to it’s large clusters of yellow blooms, from January through March or April, adding welcome color to the winter garden.
  • In the summer and fall the former yellow flowers become heavy draping fruit clusters in bright blue and purple hues.
  • This is a great “go anywhere” shrub, thriving in full sun to heavy shade.
  • This plant is almost completely immune to all pest and disease problems, and is one of the top five plants that botanical societies recommend to plant in areas with known Crown Gall infestation, due to its imperviousness to the bacterium.

What It Gives Back To You and Your Yard:

  • img 1576 225x300 Native To Know: The Oregon Grape HollyEvergreens can form the backbones of a garden, and maintain the structure of it through the winter. Oregon Grape Holly’s unusual shape, and textures make it a welcome evergreen choice over more common and shaggy types of evergreens like Yews.
  • This is a great plant to place in the landscape if you are looking for birdwatching opportunities. Songbirds are attracted to the Oregon Grape Holly for its long lasting fruit, and will often build nests near these plants in the breeding season to have a quick snack available to them while they hunt for grubs for their chicks.
  • Slow growth habits are always appreciated in the landscape, and this is another plant that while beautiful, will not require much pruning over time to contain it. Simple trimming of the feeder stems near the base of the plant will ensure a fuller bush-like shape to the shrub.
  • The flowers and “grapes” are great conversation pieces to place out when entertaining as centerpieces with the leaves attached, or in vase arrangements.

The Oregon Grape Holly, or Mahonia aquifolium, comes in dwarf and full sized cultivars, and outshines many more common types of hollies with it’s blooms and fruit.  Much like many hollies, the leaves of this plant are pointed and sharp making it a good hedge or background plant. This particular type looks best when mixed with other plants and not left to stand alone, where it’s thin stems are visible. The Mahonia does not have the same branching habit that many other shrubs have, and tends to grow taller and more “leggy” over time rather than wide. It can be planted safely in areas if human traffic without fear of it latching onto the clothing of people passing by.

For areas of moderate to heavy moisture, and heavy shade to full sun, this is a great plant for your yard. Not only is it beautuful and unique from most common landscape plants, but it’s another great native plant we can add to the yard guilt-free, and do something for the local ecosystem while we do it!

Happy Gardening, and remember to check out native plants for your next gardening project – You might be surprised with what you find!

About Amy

Comments

  1. Crystal says:

    When I went to the National Arboretum this fall I discovered this shrub, and was totally awed & fascinated! What do you think about the Mahonia Bellei (the big one)? I liked that one but seems most people get the Oregon Grape Holly. Is there a downside to having the big-leafed Mahonia Bellei type?

  2. dennis grisham says:

    i have one of these mahonias ,berrys go from green to purple, i just love it but dont know any thing about how to start another one from the one i have,does it like sun or shade,how to take care of it. can you help me with any info about it.
    thank you dennisgrisham@yahoo.com

  3. Matt says:

    @Crystal:
    Leatherleaf mahonia, or Manhonia Bellei, is native to China, Japan and Taiwan. It has been planted as an ornamental since 1845 and is now invading woodlands in the southeastern United States. It is shade, cold and drought tolerant but prefers moist soils such as those found in forest bottomlands. At the present time leatherleaf mahonia is most common in open woodlands, urban green spaces in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

    Leatherleaf mahonia colonizes forest understories displacing native plant species. It can colonize from basal sprouts and from bird dispersed seeds. Seeds from ripe fruits are able to germinate immediately. Leatherleaf mahonia may hybridize with native mahonia species.

    THREAT: Leatherleaf mahonia colonizes forest understories displacing native plant species. It can colonize from basal sprouts and from bird dispersed seeds. Seeds from ripe fruits are able to germinate immediately. Leatherleaf mahonia may hybridize with native mahonia species.

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