Unusual & Old Fashioned Fruit Trees

Mahonia - Oregon Grape.

This family covers over 70 different species of evergreen shrubs that have prickly leaves a little like holly except that they are strung out down stems like the fronds of a fern. The height of Mahonias vary from a couple of feet up to enormous 15 foot prehistoric looking types. Many species originate from Asia, and others were brought over from America by Bernard McMahon around 1800, after whom they were named.

Mahonias have large racemes of scented, bright yellow flowers in the Winter followed by bunches of juicy purple berries. Pilgrim explorers to North America found the Native Americans eating the grape like berries in Oregon and gave the plant its popular nickname of the “Oregon Grape” and although Mahonia Aquifolium is usually given this name, the name actually belongs to a smaller variety called “Nervosa.”

Aquifolium was first imported from America in 1823 and gained such feverish interest that specimens sold for crazy prices of up to £10 each, which was a Kings Ransom in those days, bearing in mind that a gold sovereign was only worth £1. (Todays price for a sovereign is way over £100 each.) Nowadays this variety has been planted in so many gardens for so long that birds have carried away and distributed so much seed in the past that in many parts of the country the plants have naturalised themselves in woodlands to such an extent they are a nuisance. Surprisingly enough a lot of different varieties of Mahonia are not very hardy and apart from Aquifolium many are also fussy about their growing conditions.

Mahonia “Grape” berries have undoubtedly been eaten in the past, but it is suggested that the berries are best made into a “Jelly” or Jam as many other fruits have been researched and discovered to have previously unknown, mild, toxic qualities, (Such as green Tomatoes and Juniper berries) that can be destroyed by simply cooking and making the fruit into some sort of preserve.

Click Here For Information