Oregon Grape: Mahonia Nervosa

Oregon Grape is a species of flowering shrub, native to western North America and commonly found throughout the Puget Sound Region.  It is an evergreen with holly-like leaves often found growing in the understory of Douglas fir forests.


It is tolerant of the droughty summers we experience here in King County and poor soil conditions. Both low Oregon Grape mahonia nervosa and its more ambitious cousin tall Oregon Grape mahonia aquifolium are commonly sited all over the place in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps this ubiquity is the reason it was designated Oregon’s State flower.

 Sketch from the Electronic Atlas of the Flora of BC 
Oregon Grape has a compound leaf with paired and opposite, smaller leaflets.  In the spring it’s dense clusters of yellow flowers are followed by bunches of dark berries.  The small berries, although not poisonous, are quite tart and contain large seeds.  Today they are used to make jelly or wine. Some Indian tribes of the northwest used Oregon grape to treat problems of digestion.