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Mahonia aquifolium, Oregon Grape


Mahonia can be grown as a low hedge and does not need trimming. Because of its suckering habit, it also makes a good dense ground cover plant though it can be slow to become established.

A yellow dye is obtained from the inner bark of the stem and roots.

Dark green, violet and dark blue-purple dyes are obtained from the fruit. A green dye is obtained from the leaves.

Oregon grape was often used by several native North American Indian tribes to treat loss of appetite and debility.

Should be sown in a cold frame in late winter or spring. 3 weeks cold stratification will improve its germination, which should take place in 3-6 months at 10°c. Prick out the seedlings when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame for at least their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer.

A very easy plant to grow, thriving in any good garden soil and tolerating dense shade under trees. It grows well in heavy clay soils and also succeeds in dry soils if it is given a good mulch annually. It dislikes exposure to strong winds.

Plants are hardy to about -20°c. Very tolerant of pruning, plants can be cut back into old wood if they grow too large and straggly. Spring is the best time to do this. Suckers are fairly freely produced, with established plants forming dense thickets.

Edible uses

Fruit - raw or cooked. The fruit is almost as large as a blackcurrant and is produced in large bunches so it is easy to harvest. It has an acid flavour, but it is rather nice raw and is especially good when added to a porridge or muesli. Unfortunately, there is relatively little flesh and a lot of seeds, though some plants have larger and juicier fruits. The cooked fruit tastes somewhat like blackcurrants. The fruit can also be dried and stored for later use.

Flowers - raw. They can also be used to make a lemonade-like drink.


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