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Barberry (Mahonia)


Mahonia is a genus of about 70 species of evergreen shrubs in the family Berberidaceae, native to eastern Asia, the Himalaya, North America, and Central America.They are closely related to the genus Berberis. Botanists disagree on the acceptability of the genus name Mahonia.Several authorities argue plants in this genus should be included in the genus Berberis because several species in both genera are able to hybridize, and because when the two genera are looked at as a whole, there is no consistent morphological separation except simple vs compound leaves. Mahonia typically have large, pinnate leaves 10-50 cm (3.9-19.7 in) long with five to fifteen leaflets, and flowers in racemes which are 5-20 cm (2.0-7.9 in) long. The genus name Mahonia honours the Philadelphia horticulturist Bernard McMahon who introduced the plant from materials collected by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The type species of the genus is Mahonia aquifolium, (Oregon grape) from the Pacific coast of North America. Several species are popular garden shrubs, grown for their ornamental, often spiny, evergreen foliage, yellow flowers in autumn, winter and early spring, and blue-black berries. The flowers are borne in terminal clusters or spreading racemes, and may be among the earliest flowers to appear in the growing season. The berries are edible, and rich in vitamin C, though with a very sharp flavor. Although edible, the plants contain berberine, a compound found in many Berberis and Mahonia species which can cause vomiting, lowered blood pressure, reduced heart rate, lethargy, and other ill-effects when consumed in large quantities.

Taxonomic tree

  • Domain: Eukarya

    • Kingdom: Plantae

      • Phylum: Magnoliophyta

        • Class: Magnoliopsida

          • Order: Ranunculales

            • Family: Berberidaceae

              • Genus: Mahonia