Mahonia trifoliolata

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Mahonia trifoliolata
Agarita, Agrito, Algerita (Mahonia trifoliolata).jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Berberidaceae
Genus: Mahonia
M. trifoliolata
Binomial name
Mahonia trifoliolata
(Moric.) Fedde
  • Berberis trifoliolata Moric.
  • Odostemon trifoliolatus (Moric.) A. Heller
  • Berberis trifoliolata var. glauca (I.M. Johnst.) M.C. Johnst. ex Laferr.
  • Mahonia trifoliolata var. glauca I.M. Johnst.

Mahonia trifoliolata is a species of flowering plant in the family Berberidaceae, in southwestern North America. Common names include agarita, agrito, algerita, currant-of-Texas, wild currant, and chaparral berry.


The shrub is native to Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas in the Southwestern United States, and across northeastern Mexico as far south as Durango and San Luis Potosí states.[1] In Texas, it is found on rocky slopes and cliffs, and in thickets and open woods, from coastal South Texas northwest to the Trans-Pecos region.


Mahonia trifoliolata is an evergreen shrub that grows up to 3–8 ft (0.91–2.44 m) tall and wide. It has rigid and spreading branches, often forming thickets. [3][4]

The foliage is gray-green to blue-gray, and the leaflets have sharp points at the ends.

Clusters of fragrant, yellow flowers bloom in February through April.[3] They are followed by red berries from May to July.


Several authorities consider the entire genus Mahonia as part of Berberis, in which case the scientific name becomes Berberis trifoliolata.[5][6][7][8]


Songbirds eat the fruits, and quail and small mammals use the plant for cover. It is considered a good honey source.[3]


The bright red edible fruits of the agarita can be harvested around late April to early May. The fruits contain a slightly sweet and sour juice; when expelled, the juice can be used to produce an agarita wine or used simply as a fruit juice drink. The fruits also contain seeds and can be used to germinate new agarita plants. The fruit is a red berry used in jellies.

Native Americans of the Apache, Chiricahua, and Mescalero tribes used the fresh and preserved fruit for food, and the wood shavings as a traditional eye medicine and a yellow dye for hides.[9]


Mahonia trifoliolata is cultivated as an ornamental plant for use in desert-region gardens.[3] It is a low-maintenance and drought-tolerant plant, with a very high heat tolerance.[10]



  1. ^ a b "Berberis trifoliolata". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2010-10-19.
  2. ^ Tropicos Berberis trifoliolata
  3. ^ a b c d Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Native Plant Information Network (NPIN) treatment of Mahonia trifoliolata (Agarita, Agarito, Algerita, Laredo mahonia)
  4. ^ I.M. Johnstone, Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 31: 190. 1950.
  5. ^ Flora of North America, vol 3.
  6. ^ Loconte, H., & J. R. Estes. 1989. Phylogenetic systematics of Berberidaceae and Ranunculales (Magnoliidae). Systematic Botany 14:565-579.
  7. ^ Marroquín, Jorge S., & Joseph E. Laferrière. 1997. Transfer of specific and infraspecific taxa from Mahonia to Berberis. Journal of the Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science 30(1):53-55.
  8. ^ Laferrière, Joseph E. 1997. Transfer of specific and infraspecific taxa from Mahonia to Berberis. Bot. Zhurn. 82(9):96-99.
  9. ^ University of Michigan at Dearborn: Native American Ethnobotany of Mahonia trifoliolata
  10. ^ Texas Native Plants Database: Mahonia trifoliolata (Agarita)

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