November 24
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Plant Genus of the family Berberidaceae

Genus Description Cultivation
Berberis This genus in the family of Berberidaceae consists of more than 450 species of deciduous and evergreen shrubs, mainly distributed across the Northern Hemisphere, the Americas and northern and tropical Africa. They are variable in size, all with spines on their branches. The plants are used to make dye for cloth, leather, wood and hair. The French make a preserve from a seedless form and some species are used medicinally. All parts of the plants are supposed to cause mild stomach upsets if eaten. Seven species are host to the bacteria that cause stem rot in some cereal crops, and in the USA eradication of these species has been attempted. Berberis 3 stenophylla was introduced into New Zealand and is a serious pest. Plants in the genus are generally cultivated for the ornamental value of their leaves, flowers and berries which are often held until winter. CULTIVATION: Berberis will grow in most well-drained to fairly heavy soils as long as they are not waterlogged. Tropical African species prefer rocky soil in mountainous areas. Plants can be grown in full sun or partial shade but autumn color of the deciduous plants, and fruiting, is better in full sun. Deciduous species may be rooted as softwood cuttings in early summer while half-hardened cuttings of deciduous and evergreen species are best taken later in summer. Seed can be sown in spring but many species cross freely, so the seed will often not come true. Site with care as branch spines can be hazardous.
Mahonia Aptly known as holly grapes, this genus of some 70 species of evergreen shrubs is found in Asia and North America with a few species extending the range into Central America. Their leaves are often very spiny and may be trifoliate or pinnate with relatively large leaflets. The foliage may be carried alternately on the stems or in whorls at the top of the stem and frequently passes through several color changes as it matures: light green or red-tinted in spring when new, deep green in summer, with red or orange tints in winter. Sprays of small yellow flowers, often scented, are most often clustered at the branch tips and appear in spring, summer, or autumn to early winter depending on the species. The flowers are followed by usually blue-black berries with a grape-like powdery bloom. The berries are edible but seldom used, except to make jellies. CULTIVATION: Mahonias vary in hardiness. Most of the commonly grown species are temperate-zone plants that tolerate moderate to hard frosts. Some species from the mountains of tropical Asia withstand only light frosts. For the lushest foliage, plant in moist well-drained soil that is fertile and rich in humus and protect from the hottest summer sun. Pruning is seldom necessary except to remove the occasional straggling or old stems. Propagating mahonias is very easy using cuttings or the rooted suckers that frequently develop at the base of established plants.

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