Berberis aquifolium

Mountain grape


The Basics

Taxonomy: Kingdom - Plantae (plants). Subkingdom - Tracheobionta (vascular plants). Superdivision - Spermatophyta (seed plants). Division - Magnoliophyta (Flowering plants). Class - Magnoliopsida (Dicotyledons). Subclass - Magnoliidae. Order - Ranunculales. Family - Berberidaceae (Barberry familly). Genus -Berberis. Species - Berberis aquifolium Pursh. - Oregon-grape.

Habitat: Also known as holly-leaf Oregon-grape, shinning Oregon-grape and tall Oregon-grape, this shurub is widely distributed throughout Washington; southern British Columbia south to Northern California, east to northern Idaho and western Montana. It is typically found on sagebrush slopes and in open woods.


General: Erect, stiff-branched, evergreen woody shrub 1.5-20 dm. tall, occasionally stoloniferous.

Leaves: Leaves alternate, pinnate, leathery; leaflets 5-9, oblong to ovate or ovate-lanceolate, 3-8 cm. long and 2-5 cm. broad, pinnately nerved from the mid-vein, glossy above, with 12-29 spiny teeth.

Flowers: Inflorescence of several bracteate racemes 3-8 cm. long; perianth of 5 alternating whorls of 3 members each; outer 3 greenish-yellow, 2-3 mm. long (bracts); next 6 bright yellow, 6-8 mm. long (sepals); inner 6 bright yellow, slightly shorter, bi-lobed, oblong (petals); stamens 6, opposite the petals; filaments with 2 divergent teeth at the tip; style none, stigma sessile.

Fruits: Berry deep blue, glaucous, globose-ellipsoid, 7-14 mm. long.


Berberis aquifolium is resistant to infection by Puccinia graminis.

Conservation Status: Not of concern.

Unique Features

Cultural significance: Berberis aquifolium is the state flower of Oregon, and is widely used aas an ornamental.

Edibile value: Medicinally, various root preparations of Berberis aquifolium were used by Native Americans for stomach trouble, hemorrhages, and tuberculosis; as a panacea, a tonic, a gargle, and an eye wash; and to purify blood. Leaves and roots were used in steam baths to treat yellow fever; karok was used as a poison; and the tips of stems were used to treat stomach aches (D. E. Moermann 1986).

Species Distribution


Flora of North America
Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 19+ vols. New York and Oxford.

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
Burke Museum. 2017. Berberis aquifolim [Online]. University of Washington.