Mahonia aquifolium (Pursh) Nutt.

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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

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'Mahonia aquifolium' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2024-05-28.



  • Berberis aquifolium Pursh


(pl. apices) Tip. apical At the apex.
Bluish or greyish waxy substance on leaves or fruits.
Immature shoot protected by scales that develops into leaves and/or flowers.
Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
Egg-shaped; broadest towards the stem.
Odd-pinnate; (of a compound leaf) with a central rachis and an uneven number of leaflets due to the presence of a terminal leaflet. (Cf. paripinnate.)


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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Mahonia aquifolium' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2024-05-28.

An evergreen shrub reaching a height of 6 ft, but as commonly seen usually 2 to 3 ft high. Stems spineless, but little branched, spreading by underground suckers; bark grey-brown, glabrous. Leaves 6 to 12 in. long, pinnate, consisting of five to nine leaflets, which are stalkless, or nearly so, of variable shape, but usually broadly and (except the terminal one) obliquely ovate, 112 to 312 in. long, glossy dark green, turning purplish in winter, the apex and margin set with slender, spiny teeth. Racemes erect, produced in a crowded group from just beneath the terminal bud, each 2 to 3 in. long, thickly set with golden yellow, slender-stalked flowers. The first flowers begin to open in February, or in mild seasons even earlier, but the great flowering time is April and May. Berries very abundant and ornamental, black, but covered with a fine violet-coloured bloom.

Native of western N. America from Vancouver Island southwards; introduced in 1823. For some time after that date it remained very expensive, costing as much as ten pounds per plant, but in 1837 the price had been reduced to five shillings. Prior to 1914 small plants could be obtained for thirty shillings per thousand. Few evergreen shrubs introduced from abroad have proved so valuable in British gardens as this. It is very hardy; I have seen it thriving on the bleak elevations of the Yorkshire wolds. For forming a low evergreen covering for the ground in moderately shaded positions, such as beneath deciduous trees, there is no evergreen so beautiful and so thriving as this. It is also admirable for planting as a groundwork for flowering shrubs that are leafless when in blossom, like the forsythias and Jasminum nudiflorum. It is not particular as to soil. Easily increased by seed, but an abundance of plants can be obtained by dividing the old plants in spring and planting the pieces on a gentle hot-bed.

Raised from seed it varies to a considerable extent, and names have been given to several varieties. The following appear to belong to M. aquifolium, without admixture of other species:

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

† cv. ‘Apollo’. – Of low, spreading growth, very free-flowering, with large trusses of orange-yellow flowers. Raised in Holland. It needs occasional light pruning.


Leaves dark reddish purple in winter.


Leaves in their first year pale green and more or less tinted with pink or red, the colouring best developed in plants grown in a sunny place. Raised in France. Dr Ahrendt considered that this is a hybrid with M. pinnata (M. × moseri Ahrendt), on the grounds that the petals are shorter than the inner sepals, but this is not a reliable character.M. aquifolium appears to have hybridised in gardens with M. repens, giving rise to seedling plants with the leaflets dull green above or wider than normal. The mahonia called M. aquifolium murrayana, mentioned in previous editions, could be such a hybrid. These mongrels are difficult to treat taxonomically, since the two species intergrade in the wild. See also under M. repens. For hybrids with M. pinnata see under that species.