Synonyms: Berberis aquifolium var. repens, Berberis nana, Berberis sonnei, Mahonia repens, Mahonia sonnei, Odostemon repens
Creeping Oregon grape as seen from the trailhead to Canyon Creek in the Klickitat State Wildlife Area of south-central Washington..................May 8, 2009.
Creeping Oregon grape is a much smaller, more compact member of a family valued by landscapers for their bright yellow flowers, evergreen leaves, and bluish berries. It is similar to shining Oregon grape, but is lower and more spreading, with trailing stems (repens means crawling or trailing). It is stoloninferous with stems reaching from 7.5-15 cm in height. The compound pinnate leaves have 5-7 oval leaves, generally less than twice as long as broad. The leaflet margins are edged with 15-43 spinulose teeth, and the upper surface may be glossy or dull.
The compact racemes of bright yellow flowers are found at the apex of the stems. The globose berries are dark blue with a glaucous dusting.
The ripe berries of Creeping Oregon grape were used by Native Americans as food. The berries were eaten raw, fermented into wine, or cooked to make jelly. The roots were used as a source of yellow dye and the alkaloid (berberine) was used as a cure for disorders of the stomach and intestines. The young leaves are palatable to deer.
Creeping Oregon grape is a plant of open grassy to forested areas, often on north-facing slopes in the Columbia River Gorge.
Creeping Oregon grape may be found east of the Cascade Mts from eastern Washington south through Deschutes and Wasco Counties, Oregon to northeastern California, southern Nevada, New Mexico, and north to South Dakota and Alberta.