creeping oregongrape, low oregongrape Barberry Berberidaceae Berberis repens Lindl.

This low growing, creeping plant appears at first to be an herb, but is actually a shrub with compound, evergreen leaves with 5 or 7 leaflets. Each leaflet is similar to a holly leaf with spines all along its margins. The leaves often turn a beautiful maroon in the fall and winter. The plant spreads by underground branching, thus what appears to be a dozen plants is actually only one plant. It is rarely over 30 cm (12 inches tall). The upper leaves tend to be ascending from the short woody stem which is terminated by a raceme of yellow flowers. The fruits are waxy blue and are grape-like. The fruits are somewhat sour with an alum affect when eaten fresh. The flowers are excellent if sauted and added to batter for muffins or pancakes. The fruits also make a nice addition to muffins or pancakes. Native Americans used the entire plant to make a dulled greenish yellow dye. Alum was used as a mordant. The boiled bark from the roots makes a brilliant yellow dye. Flathead and Kootenai Indians mashed the berries in a bowl and added milk and sugar for a very tasty desert. The berries can also be used to make jams, jellies, and wine. An alkaloid, berberine, has been found to stimulate involuntary muscles. Flathead Indians also used the plant as an antiseptic to clean wounds and cuts. It was also used to treat gonorrhea and syphilis. Also it was used as a diuretic, for stomach troubles, as a contraceptive, to treat rheumatism and as an appetite stimulant. The National Standard Dispensatory lists other uses as a tonic, stimulant, antiperiodic, and antiscorbutic, and as a treatment for dyspepsia, diarrhea, dysentery, psoriasis, eczema, and chronic uterine diseases but warns that overuse can be fatal.

Berberis repens Lindl. Creeping or Low Oregon-grape Berberidaceae Barberry Family

CHARACTERISTICS
Low growing shrub with yellow wood and coriaceous, evergreen and prickly edged leaflets
1.5-8 dm tall, arising from long, branching rootstocks
LEAVES
Pinnately compound with 5-7, spinulose margined, coriaceous leaflets
glossy or dull on upper surface, always dull and glaucous on lower surface
lower surface covered with minute papillae


FLOWERS
Perianth (sepals and Petals) of 4or 5 whorls of 3 distinct members each, the outer 1-2 series often deciduous and bractlike. Sepals and petals apparently 6 each, alike or dissimilar
the inner series of petals often glandular at base.
stamens as many as petals and opposite them or fewer or more
anthers opening by 2 uplifting valves

FRUIT
a one carpellary, 1- celled, 1-several seeded berry
HABITAT
foothills to lower montane, often in talus slopes

DISTRIBUTION
Eastern Washington south, east of the Cascades to northeast California east to Alberta, Sought Dakota, south to Texas, New Mexico, Utah and Nevada
OTHER
Flowers can be sauted and put into muffins, pancakes, etc.
Fruits can be made into juice, jam, jelly and wine.
It can be used as a bitter tonic for impaired salivary and gastric secretions, as a stimulant to liver and skin protein metabolism and as an antimicrobial for skin and intestinal tract. It is said to aid digestion and absorption of food. It can be used to alleviate psoriasis.

Images:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Photos and content written by Karl Holte, 2002