Mahonia bealei

 

Botanical Name : Mahonia bealei
Family: Berberidaceae
Genus: Mahonia
Species: M. bealei
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Ranunculales

Common Names: Beale’s barberry, Leatherleaf Mahonia, Leatherleaf Holly, Mahorina

Habitat : Mahonia beal is native to E. Asia – W. China in Hupeh, Hubei, Sichuan and Taiwan. It grows in damp woodlands in uplands around 2000 metres.

Description:
Leatherleaf mahonia is an evergreen shrub with large, pinnately compound leaves. It grows in an upright, open and loose, multi-stemmed clump 4-6 ft (1.2-1.8 m) tall and 3-4 ft (0.9-1.2 m) wide. It can get as large as 10 ft (3 m) tall and 8 ft (2.4 m) wide. The erect stems are stiff and unbranched, and the leaves come out in horizontal tiers. The leaves are about 18 in (46 cm) long with 9 to 13 stiff, sharply spiny, hollylike leaflets. The leaflets are dull grayish blue-green above and pale yellowish green below, and about 2-4 in (5-10 cm) long and 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) wide. The terminal leaflet is larger than the lateral leaflets. The fragrant lemon-yellow flowers, appearing in late winter, are borne in erect racemes 3-6 in (7.6-15 cm) long. The fruit is a berry, first green, then turning bluish black with a grayish bloom. They are about a half inch long and hang in grapelike clusters.

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Cultivation:
Landscape Uses:Border, Foundation, Pest tolerant, Massing, Rock garden, Specimen, Woodland garden. Thrives in any good garden soil[11]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Survives under quite heavy tree cover, thriving in dense shade. Prefers a semi-shaded woodland position in a damp, slightly acid to neutral humus-rich soil. The fully dormant plant is hardy to about -20°c, though the young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts. Scarcely distinct from M. japonica, differing mainly in its broader leaflets which are placed closer together on the stem and its erect flower raceme. It is often treated as a subspecies of M. japonica, despite the fact that this species is found in the wild whilst M. japonica is a cultigen and not a wild plant. Plants of the two species are often confused in cultivation. The flowers are sweetly scented. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus. Special Features:Attractive foliage, Not North American native, Extended bloom season in Zones 9A and above, Fragrant flowers, Attractive flowers or blooms.

Propagation :
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. It usually germinates in the spring. ‘Green’ seed (harvested when the embryo has fully developed but before the seed case has dried) should be sown as soon as it is harvested and germinates within 6 weeks. Stored seed should be sown as soon as possible in late winter or spring. 3 weeks cold stratification will improve its germination, which should take place in 3 – 6 months at 10°c. Prick out the seedlings when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame for at least their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer. Division of suckers in spring. Whilst they can be placed direct into their permanent positions, better results are achieved if they are potted up and placed in a frame until established. Leaf cuttings in the autumn.

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Edible Uses:.....Fruit raw or cooked. A pleasant acid flavour, it is nice when added to muesli or porridge. Unfortunately, there is relatively little flesh and a lot of seeds. The fruit is about 10mm long and 6mm wide, it ripens in April/May and if the plant is in a sheltered position the crops can be fairly heavy.

Medicinal Uses:
A decoction of the root and root bark is used in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis, recurring fever and cough in rundown body systems, rheumatoid arthritis, backache, weak knees, dysentery and enteritis. Berberine, universally present in rhizomes of Mahonia species, has marked antibacterial effects and is used as a bitter tonic. Since it is not appreciably absorbed by the body, it is used orally in the treatment of various enteric infections, especially bacterial dysentery. It should not be used with Glycyrrhiza species (Liquorice) because this nullifies the effects of the berberine. Berberine has also shown antitumor activity. The taste is bitter.  The plant detoxifies, reduces inflammations and breaks fevers. Anti-influenza effect of alkaloids from roots of Mahonia bealei. was studied in vitro. The experiment in embryo indicated that the alkaloids at concentration of 0.25 mg/ml obviously inhibited the proliferation of influenza virus Al, and at concentration of 20 mg/ml showed no side-effect on embryo.

The leaf is febrifuge and tonic. A decoction of the root and stems is antiphlogistic, antirheumatic, depurative and febrifuge. A decoction is used in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis, recurring fever and cough in rundown body systems, rheumatoid arthritis, backache, weak knees, dysentery and enteritis. The root and root bark are best harvested in the autumn. Berberine, universally present in rhizomes of Mahonia species, has marked antibacterial effects  and is used as a bitter tonic. Since it is not appreciably absorbed by the body, it is used orally in the treatment of various enteric infections, especially bacterial dysentery. It should not be used with Glycyrrhiza species (Liquorice) because this nullifies the effects of the berberine.  Berberine has also shown antitumour activity.

Other Uses:
The shade tolerant leatherleaf mahonia is a popular shrub in the southern US and similar climates, producing dense clusters of very fragrant, golden yellow flowers. These showy blossoms stand above its evergreen foliage in late winter or early spring when few other plants are blooming. Use this spiny, gangly shrub on the north side of a building, where shade excludes most flowering shrubs. You can plant a leatherleaf mahonia in front of a window, and still be able to see out between the vertical stems and horizontal layered foliage. It often is used as a border or foundation plant as well. The coarse texture and clumsy form may not suit well in a neat, formal garden, but leatherleaf mahonia can be pruned to a single-stemmed specimen. To keep a denser form, prune out a few of the tallest stems each spring to encourage new stem growth from the base. Prune out a few leaves to accentuate the layered effect. With creative pruning, leatherleaf mahonia has a dramatic silhouette.

The fruits are much relished by birds, and are usually devoured within days of ripening. Leatherleaf mahonia can be grown in containers and can be used as a large houseplant.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.floridata.com/ref/m/maho_bea.cfm
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_AB.htm
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Mahonia+bealei

 

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