Herbs & Plants

Mahonia fortunei

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

Synonyms: Berberis fortunei Lindl.

Common Names: Chinese mahonia, Fortune’s mahonia, and Holly grape.

Mahonia fortunei is native to E. Asia – China. It is found in the provinces of Chongqing, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Sichuan, Taiwan, and Zhejiang.

Some authorities place the genus Mahonia in Berberis because there is no definite morphological distinction between the two genera. The subject awaits in-depth genetic analysis.

Mahonia fortunei is an evergreen shrub that usually grows up to 2 meters tall, but sometimes reaches 4 meters. It is upright, spreading, and somewhat rounded. It has a slow to moderate rate of growth and a moderate density. The leaves are odd-pinnately compound and alternately arranged. They are dull to dark green on top and pale yellowish green on the undersides. The blades measure up to 28 centimeters long by 18 wide. The foliage is borne in bunches at the stem tips. The inflorescence is a raceme with 4 to 10 fascicles of yellow flowers. The flowers have a sweet scent and are insect-pollinated. Bloom color is yellow. Main Bloom Time: Early fall, Early spring, Early winter, Late fall, Late spring, Late winter, Mid fall, Mid spring, Mid winter. Form: Rounded, Upright or erect. The fruit is a rounded purple-blue berry about half a centimeter long.


This species is widely cultivated in China and in other places, such as Indonesia, Japan, and United States. This species is grown as an ornamental plant in gardens. It has multicolored leaves and yellow flowers. The fruits attract birds. It does not tend to have pests, and it is heat-tolerant. It makes an adequate hedge and it can be confined to a container for use as a houseplant. Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Edible Uses:
The fruit is edible and acidic in flavor but it has numerous seeds. It can be eaten cooked or raw and contains a good amount of vitamin C. It is eaten – raw or cooked. An acid flavour, but it makes an acceptable dessert fruit and is especially nice when added to muesli or porridge. Unfortunately, there is relatively little flesh and a lot of seeds.

Medicinal Uses:
This and many other related species contain the alkaloid berberine, a chemical being studied for its therapeutic potential. The leaf is anticancer. A decoction of the root is febrifuge and odontalgic. 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. The root and root bark are best harvested in the autumn.

Other Uses: It is grown as an ornamental in many lands, with common names including Chinese mahonia, Fortune’s mahonia, and holly grape.

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


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