Oregon-grape (tall, Berberis aquafolium)

The Oregon-grape (Mahonia) is a tall, evergreen shrub that gets its name aquafolium due to the shiny nature of the leaflets. Standing anywhere from 3’ to 10’ tall, Oregon-grape is identifiable by its shiny, leaflets and fruits that are about ¼” in diameter, with palmate veins and a spinous margin. They grow best in the understory of areas rich in Douglas-fir, and are classified as an invasive exotic species in foreign areas. In areas of the United Kingdom ‘aquafolium’ refers to ‘holly,’ another shrub with identical armed leaflets.


The Oregon-grape shares the genius with the dwarf variation nervosa, which is identifiable by its leaflets that are less shinier, flatter, and have more distinctive veins than the aquafolium.



  • Alternate, palmately veined compound leaves with 5-9 leaflets 6” – 12” long
  • 3’ – 10’ tall with glossy, dark green leaves with spinous margins
  • Bears fruit 3/16-1/4” in diameter
  • Bright yellow flowers
  • Lives in moist under canopies of Douglas-fir
  • Stems and roots were used as clothing dyesGrape