West Coast Wild Harvest Issue 1 Spring/Summer 2016 - Page 13

EDIBLE IMPOSTOR M. O. STEVENS PETER O’CONNOR has occasionally been used to make wine, though the berries are very tart in flavour. For medicinal purposes, herbalists often tout the Oregon grape as an invaluable source for natural remedies. It can be used to ease internal discomforts such as indigestion, stomach ulcers, heartburn, and upset stomach, and its root has similar properties to goldenseal. It can also be used topically in homeopathic creams and salves as a way to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. The primary differentiating factor between the two is each plant’s respective flowers and berries. In the spring and summer months, European holly blooms with dull white flowers, each with four petals. Oregon grape, by contrast, blooms in the spring with flowers in a bright, cheerful yellow. Beginning around October, European holly has clusters of the rich, cherry-red berries that make it popular for festive decorating. Oregon grape, however, has deep purplish-blue berries that are similar in colour to the traditional grapes that give the plant its name. European holly is also typically found higher above the ground than Oregon grape; the trees of European holly usually grow to be four to eight metres high, while shrubs of Oregon grape are generally less than one metre tall. Confusing European holly for Oregon grape is an easy mistake to make, but it can cause unwary foragers unnecessary trouble; know the plants’ physical differences, and save the holly for the holidays. MAJA DUMAT An Oregon grape in full view with closeups of the leaves, berries, and flowers TODD PETIT (Opposite) A European holly tree in full view with closeups of the leaves, berries and flowers SPRING/SUMMER 2016 13