My Oregon-grape shrubs are blooming right now. This shrub, the state flower of Oregon, is a native plant on the west coast from British Columbia to northern California. The plants are found in the understory of Douglas-fir forests and in brushlands. Although this plant is definitely outside of its native range here, my four shrubs are thriving, including one in full sun and three in deep shade. These plants are extremely drought-tolerant and slow-growing.
This plant is considered invasive in some areas, but I have had mine for several years and have had no problems with them spreading or becoming invasive. In fact, I’ve never seen any more of them anywhere in this area. The shrubs have leathery, sharp-edged leaves that closely resemble our native holly bushes. The buds, thick chartreuse clusters with a purple-colored edge, open to bright, sunny-yellow flowers. In the summer, these shrubs are filled with thick clusters of very attractive, dark blue, grape-like fruits. I haven’t tasted them, but the fruits are edible. The birds love them. These shrubs are very strange in appearance, and are very exotic looking. I have these in a wooded area at the far edge of the yard, and enjoy their cheerful flower clusters every spring.
About the Oregon-Grape:
The leathery leaves resemble holly and the stems and twigs have a thickened, corky appearance. The flowers, borne in late spring, are an attractive yellow. Oregon-grape is used in landscaping similarly to barberry, as a plant suited for low-maintenance plantings and loose hedges. Oregon-grape is resistant to summer drought, tolerates poor soils, and does not create excessive leaf litter. Its berries attract birds. The small purplish-black fruits, which are quite tart and contain large seeds, are sometimes used locally mixed with Salal to make jelly. The fruit is bitter, and generally not eaten without being sweetened first. As the leaves of Oregon-grape are holly-like and resist wilting, the foliage is sometimes used by florists for greenery and a small gathering industry has been established in the Pacific Northwest. The inner bark of the larger stems and roots of Oregon-grape yield a yellow dye. In some areas outside its native range, Oregon-grape has been classified as an invasive exotic species that may displace native vegetation.