Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mystery berries

These berries grow on a plant whose multi-pointed leaves resemble holly. But, as far as I can tell, the holly that grows in Europe (ilex aquifolium) has red berries much like its counterpart in the Americas. As you can see, these berries are blue. So I'm stumped.

Our mystery berries. Do you know what they are?

This plant grows inside one particular section our bay hedge out by the back gate. The green leaves you see in the photo belong to the hedge, not the "holly." I should go take a photo of the pointy leaves, but I'm lazy. The fruit resembles blueberries, except that they're much smaller and don't have the blueberry's characteristic crown on the end. Besides, blueberries wouldn't grow in dry clay soil, I don't think.

In any event, I'm not eating them.

UPDATE: So I think the commenters are correct. This seems to be mahonia. And the berries are edible, once cooked. There aren't enough for me to bother with, so I won't. I suspect some bird ate the fruit of this ornamental plant somewhere in our area (apparently birds love these berries) and "deposited" the seeds here under our hedge.


  1. Hello

    I have just stumbled into your blog by chance - and I love it.

    We have a hedge that has lots of tiny white flowers in spring and produces clusters of berries that look rather like yours in the autumn. Of course, here in the north, our season is way behind yours. My berries are edible, but very sour and the Nrwegian name translates as - blach sour berries.

    I am sighning-up to be your newest follower.


  2. I'm almost sure it is a Mahonia, since you said the leaves look like those of holly. The blue berries are typical of Mahonia.

  3. According to Wikipedia, Mahonia Aquifolium is native to the American North West, California, Oregon and British Columbia and is known as Oregon grape.

    It seems the berries are edible with a sour taste. Jam or preserves can be made with the berries. Pioneers made some sort of wine out of them [!].

  4. Mahonia, I think. I just read Preserving Memories: Growing Up in My Mother's Kitchen by Judy Glattstein and was surprised that she makes jam from these berried.
    You should be able to make their identification sure and experiment if you like...

  5. Mahonias have prickly leaves. If these don't have the characteristic leaf, check with Susan. She'll know what it is.

  6. D'accord, c'est mahonia. Before the berries arrive there are some pretty yellow flowers. I didn't know you could eat the berries...

  7. Mahonias grow from seed very easily here. The flowers are scented and come in the late winter/early spring - a attractive plant at its best just when you need it most.

  8. You take the most beautiful photos. It's like the "BING" photo of the day. BTW, I lived in San Francisco for 3 months, near the corner of 21 and Castro st. It was fun but I was happy to get back to Hollywood.

  9. Cool blog! totally followed you. Very inspiring page. :)

  10. I thought they were blueberries but then I'm not exactly up to speed when it comes to this kind of stuff.

  11. Walt,

    I too love your blog. Easy on the eyes and my head doesn't hurt after I read it. Always a pleasure to stop by for a visit.

  12. anna, welcome!

    chm, that looks right. Thanks!

    kristi, I'd be surprised if it's not mahonia. But it's only one plant and there aren't enough berries to do anything with.

    carolyn, she's commented below. They do have prickly leaves.

    evelyn, do you have them where you are?

    susan, I suspect some bird at the berries somewhere nearby and "dropped" them inside our hedge at some point. Oh, I think I already said that in my update!

    mike, thanks! I don't really know Hollywood other than to have driven through.

    justin, thanks! And welcome!

    starman, neither am I, but it's cool to learn about them. Blogging is better than an encyclopedia!

    ron, merci!


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