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Plants from the Ground Up

Mahonia gracilipes

Mahonia gracilipes - flower

This is a plant I would really love to see used in more gardens! Mahonia gracilipes is virtually unknown in the west so if you are looking for something unique for your garden consider its many fine attributes. Large, leathery pinnate leaves that open a deep burgundy-red before becoming glossy green, they also have an outstanding purple-red tint in cold weather. The wonderful leaves also have interesting frosty white undersides. Sprays of soft rose and yellow flowers turn to dark purple-blue berries that hang on striking red stems. Plants are self-fertile and pollinated by insects, only one plant is required for these incredible fruits. Mahonia gracilipes is a slow growing evergreen shrub eventually reaching 5-6′ tall and equally wide with a nicely structured layered look to it. It can tolerate a variety of conditions, but really thrives in dappled shade with adequate moisture.

Mahonia gracilipes - fruit

Although I have not yet experimented with the berries, they are edible and I would think they could be used in the same ways as our own native Oregon Grape berries. Mahonia all contain high levels of berberine (you will notice they all stain bright yellow beneath their bark) which is a powerful medicine used as an antibacterial. Native to limestone cliffs in China, this attractive and adaptable plant was introduced to the west by Roy Lancaster. Mahonia gracilipes can be propagated by fresh seed sown in cold frames, by divsion in spring, or leaf cuttings in fall. USDA hardiness zones 7-10.

For more photos and information, see Mahonia gracilipes at the Forestfarm Store.

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