Oregon Focus: State Symbols: Flower

About the Oregon Grape

yellow Oregon Grape flowers
Oregon Grape flowers. (Oregon State Archives Photo)
The Oregon Grape was designated as the state flower by the legislature in 1899.
It is an elegant ornamental evergreen shrub somewhat resembling English holly. In the wild state it grows to two to three feet high. Under cultivation, it makes a showy plant six to eight feet high, with finely cut, polished leaves. In spring, the Oregon Grape bears small yellow flowers that are followed in the late summer and fall by dark, purplish-black berries. It is found growing mainly in the western areas of Oregon. The berries are edible.
The Native Americans used a "decoction" (an extract obtained by boiling Oregon Grape) as a tonic and medicine. The berries are slightly acid, but the early pioneers reported that they make a "fine beverage, good pies, and preserves.
The root can also be used to make yellow dye.

Suggestions for Teachers

Ask students to:
Observe Oregon Grape in the fall and again in the spring. Bring pieces to class so that students will be able to recognize it. Use pictures if the plant is unavailable.
blue Oregon Grape berries
Oregon Grape berries. (Oregon State Archives Photo)
Make a survey to determine how many Oregon Grape plants are on the school grounds.
Purchase and plant an Oregon Grape shrub as a class project.
Draw a picture of Oregon Grape and a picture of their favorite flower. Compare the two flowers, blooms, berries, or seeds, etc.
Take a field trip to observe areas in which Oregon Grape thrives or research the habitat on the Web.
Gather roots from Oregon Grape. Boil to make yellow dye and color some white material to show the shades of yellow that are possible. Tie-dye some old white shirts from home and use them for paint shirts at school.
Write a story or discuss why they think that Oregon Grape was chosen for the state flower. Would they have chosen it? If not, what would they have chosen?
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