Arguments On Leatherleaf Mahonia

Q: I was shocked to read in your column that you have the nonnative and invasive leatherleaf mahonia in your garden. It frequently pops up in places where it is not wanted. They require gloves to maintain and are hard to kill. Why risk passing this plant on to others?

A: Sometimes beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As you observe, it’s not hard to accidentally have leatherleaf mahonia in your landscape. But some people like the bright yellow flowers and the blue-skinned fruits, which give mahonia the nickname ‘Oregon grape’. Honeybees and native bees love the early spring blooms as well. Speaking as someone who has recently been castigated on Facebook for mentioning nandina, I’m going to leave the discussion of “invasive vs. noninvasive” and “native vs. nonnative” to folks who are more knowledgeable or more fired up than me.

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