PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

Oregon Grape (Mahonia spp.)

Another classic plant in PNW gardens and in the wild. It is a pioneer plant, quickly populating disturbed ground from logging or road cuts. In the urban landscape it can serve as an evergreen specimen, barrier hedge, or be left to naturalize in a back corner where it supports local ecology of birds and pollinating insects.

There are many dozens of species native from Asia to the Americas. In the PNW you can easily find three basic types: Tall Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium), Low Oregon Grape (Mahonia nervosa), and Creeping Oregon Grape (Mahonia repens). Their names kinda give you a big hint as to how they grow. The Tall one gets 5-7 feet tall, ‘Low’ gets 3-4-ish feet, and ‘Creeping’ gets only about 1-1.5 feet. They all form clumps or colonies of themselves from spreading roots.

Ok, enough with the mundane info, here is why you will want and need it. Leaves are evergreen, turning striking bronzy purples and reds in winter. In very gray late winter they pop out brilliant sunny yellow bloom clusters, which become bright blue berries by early summer. Fresh berries are unbelievably tart and tannic, but juiced, their flavor blends well with other berries in preserves and juice blends. It’s very nutritious too.

The bright yellow root and stem wood is a classic dye stuff. Many studies show it to be a powerful treatment for psoriasis and eczema by reducing inflammation in the skin.