Description from Flora of China
Shrubs or small trees, evergreen, 0.3-8 m tall. Spines absent. Leaves imparipinnate, alternate, sessile or petiolate; petiole to 14 cm; leaflets 3-41; lateral leaflets usually sessile; terminal leaflet sessile or petiolulate; margins of leaflets entire, variously toothed, or with coarse or fine serrations. Inflorescence terminal, of (1-)3-18-fascicled simple or branched racemes or panicles, 3-35 cm, subtended by leafletlike bracts. Pedicel 1.5-24 mm, subtending bract shorter or longer than pedicel. Flowers yellow, with 3 whorls of sepals and 1 whorl of petals, with or without glands at base of petals. Anther connective not prolonged, apiculate or conspicuously prolonged. Ovary ellipsoid; ovules 1-7; styles absent or to 3 mm, persistent on mature fruit. Fruit berries, bluish or black, often glaucous. Seeds 1-7.
Most of the Chinese wild populations of Mahonia have been extirpated, probably as a result of over-collecting for medicinal use, and the plants now being described are probably individuals that vary only in minor ways from the relatively few specimens that exist in herbaria.
Ahrendt (J. Linn. Soc., Bot. 57: 1-410. 1961) recognized two "groups" in Mahonia: "Orientales" and "Occidentales." All of the Asian species of Mahonia, plus a single North American species from the Pacific Northwest, M. nervosa (Pursh) Nuttall, are in the "Orientales."
See the paper by J. Y. Wu, H. N. Qin, D. Y. Xue, and K. X. Zhou, "Study on seed morphology of Mahonia (Berberidaceae)" (Guihaia 30: 155-160. 2010).
Insufficiently known species
- Mahonia annamica Gagnepain, Bull. Soc. Bot. France 55: 84. 1908.
Berberis annamica (Gagnepain) Laferrière.
This species was described from Vietnam and reported for Guangxi. We have not seen specimens from Guangxi and are unsure of its placement.
- Mahonia bijuga Handel-Mazzetti, Symb. Sin. 7: 331. 1931.
This species was described from Sichuan ("Lose-schan s von S of Ningyüen," 3300 m), based on H. v. Handel-Mazzetti 1430 (?W), but we have not seen the type.
- Mahonia dulongensis H. Li, Ann. Bot. Fenn. 46: 469. 2009.
This species was recently described from Yunnan (Gongshan, Dulong Jiang, 1620 m, 5 Nov 2005), based on Gaoligongshan Biodiversity Survey 21834 (holotype, KUN; isotypes, CAS, E).
- Mahonia hypoleuca Takeda, Notes Roy. Bot. Gard. Edinburgh 6: 238. 1917.
Berberis nivea (C. K. Schneider) Laferrière; Mahonia nivea C. K. Schneider.
Both Mahonia hypoleuca and M. nivea are based on A. Henry 9863, from Mengtze, Yunnan, which is without flowers and fruit and the only collection known.
- Mahonia jingxiensis J. Y. Wu, M. Ogisu, H. N. Qin & S. N. Lu, Bot. Stud. (Taipei) 50: 487. 2009.
This species was recently described from Guangxi (Jingxi Xian, Sanhe Xiang, Niansi Tun, ca. 500 m, 23 Oct 2007), based on J. Y. Wu & M. Ogisu 1023 (holotype, PE; isotype, IBK).
- Mahonia lushuiensis T. S. Ying & H. Li, Ann. Bot. Fenn. 46: 472. 2009.
This species was recently described from Yunnan (Lushui County, Luzhang Township, 325 m, 19 May 2005), based on Gaoligongshan Biodiversity Survey 24522 (holotype, KUN; isotypes, CAS, E).
About 60 species: mainly in E and SE Asia, also in W North America, Central America, and W South America; 31 species (27 endemic) in China; six additional species (five endemic) are insufficiently known.
(Authors: Ying Junsheng (应俊生 Ying Tsun-shen); David E. Boufford, Anthony R. Brach)