Common names: tall Oregon grape, dull Oregon grape and creeping Oregon grape
Scientific names: Mahonia aquifolium (Pursh) Nutt., M. nervosa (Pursh) Nutt. and M. repens (Lindl.) G. Don
Family name: Berberidaceae (barberry family)
A low growing shrub with leathery holly-like leaves. Bright yellow flowers with round berries that are a dark blue.
FOOD AND MEDICINAL USES
The Nlaka’pamux, Stl’atl’imx, Okanagan, Secwepemc, Ktunaxa, Carrier, Straits Salish, Halq’emeylem, Squamish, Sechelt and Kwakwaka’wakw ate the berries off the bush, although they were extremely sour. The berries were known to be tart, and gathered in mid-August when the berries were fully ripe. The southern Okanagan of Washington used to mash and dry them into cakes while other nations mashed, boiled and mixed with other more sweeter berries. Other sources have noted Oregon grape as a laxative. Today they are still eaten fresh, but oftentimes are canned or made into a deliciously tangy jelley or wine.
Some of the First People’s of British Columbia used the bark and wood of the plant as a tonic and blood purifier because it is believed to be good for the blood. The small leaves were eaten by some by boiling them in water until tender.
The roots were made into a powerful tea to help the reproductive system and help to deliver the placenta. Root tea has also been noted as being used as a contraceptive, or to help treat gonorrhea and syphilis. Also, the tea has used to relieve itchy red eyes, by washing the eye with the root tea.
One Saanich woman has noted that the berries were sometimes used as an antidote for shellfish poisoning.
General disclaimer: It is recommended that individuals seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally. The University of British Columbia is not responsible for any adverse effects that might result from the use of this plant.
The bark of the stems and roots can be used to make a bright yellow dye, used for baskets.
LOCATION IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
M. aquifolium occurs throughout the southern part of British Columbia while M. nervosa is mostly only found to the southern coastal forests west of the Cascade Mountains.
LOCATION IN UBC
The University Endowment Lands, Pacific Spirit Park, small forested areas within campus
For more information on tall Oregon grape visit E-Flora:
For more information on dull Oregon grape visit E-Flora:
For more information on creeping Oregon grape visit E-Flora:
Pojar, J. & Mackinnon, A. (1994). Plants of Coastal British Columbia: including Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Vancouver, BC: Lone Pine Publishing.
Turner, Nancy J., Laurence C. Thompson and M. Terry Thompson et al. (1990). Thompson Ethnobotany: Knowledge and Usage of Plants by the Thompson Indians of British Columbia.
Turner, N. J., & Royal British Columbia Museum. (1995). Food plants of coastal first peoples. Vancouver: UBC Press.
Turner, N. J., & Royal British Columbia Museum. (1997). Food plants of interior first peoples. Vancouver: UBC Press.
DHochmayr (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/71/Berberidaceae_Mahonia_nervosa1.JPG
Stan Shebs [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/24/Mahonia_repens_4.jpg
Syp (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4b/Mahonia_aquifolium_flowers_and_leaves.jpg