An evergreen shrub of dwarf, stiff habit, usually less than 1 ft high, spreading by underground stems. Leaves pinnate, consisting of three, five, or seven leaflets, which are ovate, pointed, 1 to 21⁄2 in. long, spine-toothed, of a dull bluish green above, grey and papillose beneath. Racemes 11⁄2 to 3 in. long, produced in a cluster at the end of the branch. Flowers deep yellow, open in April and May. Fruits black, 1⁄4 in. wide, covered with a blue bloom.
Native of western N. America; originally discovered during the famous expedition under Lewis and Clarke, who crossed the North American continent for the first time, 1804-6. It ought to be useful in positions where a close evergreen covering is desired, but it has never been extensively grown. It can be propagated by removing the creeping shoots, but has never adapted itself to our conditions as M. aquifolium has, for instance. From that species it differs markedly in its dull bluish foliage, which also shows itself in some hybrids between the two species. It is quite distinct from M. nervosa which has glossy foliage, and twice as many leaflets.
var. rotundifolia Fedde – There are at least two mahonias in cultivation which bear some resemblance to M. repens but are of much robuster habit. Dr Ahrendt referred to var. rotundifolia Fedde the very handsome mahonia in the R.H.S. garden at Wisley which is about 2 ft or slightly more high and has leaves with mostly two or three pairs of medium green, roundish ovate, finely toothed or entire leaflets; flowers rich yellow. There is a similar plant in the Berberis Dell at Kew, about 5 ft high, which bears rather pale yellow flowers in great profusion. It was received under the name M. repens prunifolia.
M. pumila (Greene) Fedde B. pumila Greene – A suckering shrub about 1 ft or slightly more high. Leaves 3 to 51⁄2 in. long; leaflets five to nine, 1 to 21⁄4 in. long, ovate or oblong-ovate, dull grey-green and conspicuously net-veined above, paler and somewhat glaucous beneath with up to ten spine-tipped teeth on each side. Racemes clustered, 1 to 2 in. long; pedicels with a bracteole at midpoint. Native of the mountains of California and S. Oregon. This mahonia, now available in commerce, is very distinct in its grey leaves and dwarf habit and should make a useful ground cover in a sunny place.
M. ‘Hervei’. – According to the original description, this mahonia is bushy and compact, with dark green, roundish-oval, plane, almost spineless leaves; raised by a M. Hervé of Versailles (May, in Rev. Hort. (1881), p. 250, as M. rotundifolia, with M. hervei Hort. as a synonym; M. × hervei Ahrendt (“herveyi”), nom. superfl.). A plant at Kew, which may have belonged to the true clone, was said in previous editions to make a low tuft and to have the leaflets often in threes. This plant cannot be traced. It has been suggested that this mahonia is a hybrid between M. repens and M. aquifolium, but other authorities consider it to be a form of M. repens merely. For other possible hybrids between these two species see under M. aquifolium.