Berberis (Mahonia) bealei
Leatherleaf mahonia (Berberis or Mahonia bealei) is a large evergreen shrub with leathery holly-like leaves which usually grows in a multi-stemmed clump. Native to western China, it was introduced into the United States as an ornamental garden plant, escaping into natural habitat in many southeastern states.
Leatherleaf mahonia often grows about waist-high but can grow up to 10 feet in height. Its branch tips and inner roots are bright yellow, while its older branches and trunk are covered in thin tannish-gray bark. The oddly pinnate compound leaves are composed of 9 to 13 holly-like leaflets which grow along purplish leaf stalks. Flowering occurs in January to April with fragrant, yellow flowers. Flowers are followed by waxy green fruits, which mature in late spring and early summer to blue-black egg-shaped fruits hanging in grape-like clusters. The fruit is attractive to birds, which allows this shrub to spread and naturalize. In North Carolina, it has been observed in the Mountains and the Piedmont, and infrequently in the Coastal Plain.
Fact Sheet: Leatherleaf Mahonia