Sunday, March 11, 2012

Agarita (Mahonia Trifoliolata)

Lately when I go to our back woodland to feed the birds, a drift of sweet/spicy scent brings me to a stop.  Bags of seed in hand, I stand and breathe.  No thought, just the breath of beauty.

The perfume floats from an unlikely source--agarita bushes native to Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. With prickly leaves and thorny stems, this 3-6 foot sprawling shrub is one of the first plants most people clear when they put a house on a plot that used to be wild. 

I like agarita because it's hardy, evergreen, deer don't eat it and the agarita on our homestead survived without human intervention in last year's driest-12-months in Texas' recorded history.  

Agarita is adaptable too, living in open woods or full sun, in alkaline clay, caliche, limestone and loam, on rocky slopes or cliffs, as long as the site is well-drained. 

In years with rain, small yellow flowers garland the branches, providing nectar for early spring butterflies and bees.  

With a bit more rain in the following months, red berries form, feeding birds and wildlife and people who make jelly from the berries collected in  towels when they shake the branches with a stick.  

At my house, the birds and animals get them all.  And we're all happy about it.

Copyright 2009-2012 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.
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