Mahonia nervosa – Dull/Low Oregon Grape

At a Glanceleaves and fruit of dull oregon grape

  • Synonyms (older names): Berberis nervosa
  • Family: Berberidaceae
  • Plant Type: evergreen, low-growing shrub
  • Distribution:  Mostly Pacific Coast, California to British Columbia
  • Habitat:  forests and woods, light sun to mostly shady
  • Height:  up to 2 feet
  • Flowers/Fruits:  yellow flowers growing in a columnar cluster. Berries are round and purple-blue with a whitish hue.
  • Flowering Season: March – June
  • Leaves:  Compound leaf (one stem with many leaves) oppositely arranged. Leaflets are glossy and dark green (similar to holly) with a prickly margin (edge). Underside is a lighter green.
  • Generation: Perennial
  • Notable feature: Leaflets generally do not have a central vein but seems a little off center.

Restoration and Conservation

Oregon grape is a fairly easy plant to grow and cultivate and makes a great garden or restoration plant, especially for shady areas under trees.  The flowers are yellow and quite fragrant which attracts pollinators during the spring. The berries are a great food source for birds and mammals during the summer and fall.  Since it is an evergreen shrub, it provides foliage cover for small animals during the winter months.


Mahonia nervosa and M. aquifolium contain alkaloid compounds including berberine which has been used for medicinal uses supporting immune health and strong antibacterial properties.  Native Americans harvested and used the sour berries as a food crop and used the roots for yellow dye.

References and Resources

This article was written by Sarah Verlinde-Azofeifa.  For questions regarding the EERC Native Plant Guided Tour, contact Sarah at