Mahonia is a genus of approximately 70 species of evergreen shrubs and rarely small trees in the family Berberidaceae, native to eastern Asia, the Himalaya, North and Central America.[1] They are closely related to the genus Berberis and botanists disagree on whether to recognize a separate Mahonia.[2] Some authorities argue Mahonia should be included in Berberis because several species in both genera are able to hybridize, and because when the two genera are looked at as a whole, no consistent morphological separation exists except simple versus compound leaves.[3] However, recent DNA-based phylogenetic studies support recognition of Mahonia, though after the removal of several species into the newly-described genera Alloberberis (formerly Mahonia section Horridae) and Moranothamnus (formerly Mahonia claireae).[4] Mahonia species typically have large, pinnate leaves 10–50 cm (3.9–19.7 in) long with five to 15 leaflets, and flowers in racemes which are 5–20 cm (2.0–7.9 in) long.

Mahonia japonica fruit
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Berberidaceae
Genus: Mahonia
Type species
Mahonia aquifolium

See List of Berberis and Mahonia species

Several species are popular garden shrubs, grown for their ornamental, often spiny, evergreen foliage, yellow (or rarely red) 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.[5] The berries are edible, and rich in vitamin C, though with a very sharp flavor.[6] 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.[6]

The genus name, Mahonia, derives from Bernard McMahon, one of the stewards of the plant collections from the Lewis and Clark expedition. The type species of the genus is Mahonia aquifolium, (Oregon-grape) from the Pacific coast of North America.


The following list includes all currently recognized species of the genus Mahonia as accepted by Tropicos, Missouri Botanical Garden as of February 2016, sorted alphabetically. For each, binomial name is followed by author citation.[7][8]



  1. ^ Flora of China Vol. 19 Page 772 十大功劳属 shi da gong lao shu Mahonia Nuttall, Gen. N. Amer. Pl. 1: 211. 1818.
  2. ^ "Mahonia". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
  3. ^ "Berberis Linnaeus". Flora of North America.
  4. ^ Yu, Chih-Chieh; Chung, Kuo-Fang (2017-12-22). "Why Mahonia? Molecular recircumscription of Berberis s.l., with the description of two new genera, Alloberberis and Moranothamnus". Taxon. 66 (6): 1371–1392. doi:10.12705/666.6.
  5. ^ RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 978-1405332965.
  6. ^ a b "Mahonia Oregon Grape, Hollyleaved barberry, Oregon Holly Grape, Oregon Holly PFAF Plant Database". Retrieved 2016-02-17.
  7. ^ "Mahonia". Tropicos. Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  8. ^ "Mahonia". The Plant List. Missouri Botanical Garden. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 17 February 2016.CS1 maint: others (link)

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