Mahonia japonica

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Japanese holly-grape
tai wan shi da gong lao
Mahonia japonica4.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Berberidaceae
Genus: Mahonia
Species: M. japonica
Binomial name
Mahonia japonica
(Thunb.) DC.
  • Ilex japonica Thunb.
  • Aquifolium japonicum Raf
  • Berberis japonica (Thunb.) R.Br.
  • Berberis japonica var. gracillima (Fedde) Rehder
  • Berberis tikushiensis (Hayata) Laferr.
  • Mahonia japonica var. gracillima Fedde
  • Mahonia tikushiensis Hayata

Mahonia japonica is a species of flowering plant in the family Berberidaceae, native to Taiwan.[3] Despite the name, it is not native to Japan though it has been known in cultivation there for centuries.


It is an evergreen shrub growing to 2 m (7 ft) tall by 3 m (10 ft) wide.[4] The foliage is pinnate, glossy dark green above, paler beneath, and sharply toothed. Each leaf usually has 6–8 pairs of leaflets together with a single terminal leaflet. The plant will produce new shoots regularly from the base, so that it is clothed in foliage at all levels.

The small scented yellow flowers are borne from autumn through winter into spring. The inflorescences are 25 cm or more long, at first arching and then pendant. Dark or black fruits develop in spring and summer.[3][5][6][7][8]


The plant is much grown as an ornamental shrub, and for use in landscapes. It is of value for its bold foliage, flowers and flowering season, and as a groundcover landscape shrub. Its spiny foliage, like that of the closely related berberis, invite use in security hedging.

Several cultivars and hybrids have been developed, of which the following have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:-

Mahonia bealei, native to mainland China[13] and also widely cultivated, is sometimes treated as a separate species, and sometimes as a cultivar of this species, under the name Mahonia japonica. Its most obvious differences from M. japonica are in shorter racemes and wider leaflets.


  1. ^ Tropicos
  2. ^ The Plant List
  3. ^ a b c Flora of China v 19 p 781, Mahonia japonica
  4. ^ RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 1405332964. 
  5. ^ Thunberg, Carl Peter. 1784. Flora Japonica 77, Ilex japonica
  6. ^ Brown, Robert. 1818. Observations systematical and geographical on the herbarium collected by Professor Christian Smith, in the vicinity of the Congo: during the expedition to explore that river, under the command of Captain Tuckey in the year 1816. London, App. 22, Berberis japonica
  7. ^ Candolle, Augustin Pyramus de. 1821. Regni Vegetabilis Systema Naturale 2: 22.
  8. ^ Hayata, Bunzô. 1915. Icones plantarum formosanarum nec non et contributiones ad floram formosanam 5: 5–6, Mahonia tikushiensis
  9. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Mahonia japonica". Retrieved 23 May 2013. 
  10. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Mahonia x media 'Buckland'". Retrieved 23 May 2013. 
  11. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Mahonia x media 'Lionel Fortescue'". Retrieved 23 May 2013. 
  12. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Mahonia x media 'Winter Sun'". Retrieved 23 May 2013. 
  13. ^ Flora of China v 19 p 778, Mahonia bealei
  • Hillier; The Hillier Manual of Trees & Shrubs.
  • C. D. Brickell; The hybrids between Mahonia japonica and M. lomariifolia. In The Plantsman, volume 1, 1979.