Spring survives in racemes of yellow

There’s a holly like plant that has naturalized near my home. On my walk, I was delighted to see racemes [1] of yellow flowers that will thereafter turn into clusters of blue-black tart berries of the Oregon barberry. The Oregon Grape Holly or Mahonia aquifolium is from the family Berberidaceae, has leaves that look like Holly and is the state flower of Oregon. This shade garden ornamental that I could finally name, is so beautiful, used now as a substitute for Goldenseal as the leaves, bark, and root contain berberine, a yellow alkaloid that is the same antimicrobial compound found in there too. Its use in medicine by Native Americans in the treatment of arthritis, jaundice, fever and other ailments has been documented as well. Foragers use it to create excellent jellies. It’s literally in my backyard and I never knew … so here it is, set like pectin in a poem.

This poem is dedicated to the beautiful Oregon Grape Holly.

Mahonia aquifolium
Waxy leaves
Evergreen, the winter never laid a blemish on her waxy leaves. Is this the eternal of that which survives the rain, the sun, the waxwings, the raccoons, the storms, the kind mercenary from the landscapers in his brown overalls clicking his alligator shears, the petite woman who struck down a holly-alike limb for a sacrificial feast of gratitude ... If feelings ever gelled in pectin then it would be an antiquarian delight, for my Jam Bible has no such recipe. Perhaps I should write one, for they could find it stored in a canopic jar under the sands of time some day the sun rises in the future, like victuals of an earlier age, eternity assimilated in the glaze of green and a yellow of delicate racemes, onyx berries. In Oregon, the barberry is a survivor so they honoured her in their pantheon of Spring goddesses. The birds tell me it is Spring here too. Summer will soon cluster in survival, in patient berries, some tart, some sweet.

I find evergreen to be a poetic synonym for resilience. In the temporal, the evergreen will perish but live an eternity in its lifetime, or perhaps, the Oregon Grape Holly is simply poetic in her waxy leaves.

Berries in May (Updated on the 20th of May)
Updated: 22nd June 2021

[1] Definitions:

Raceme ~ a flower cluster with the separate flowers attached by short equal stalks at equal distances along a central stem. The flowers at the base of the central stem develop first. (Oxford Dictionary)

Botanical definition ~ A raceme (/reɪˈsiːm/ or /rəˈsiːm/) or racemoid is an unbranched, indeterminate type of inflorescence bearing pedicellate flowers (flowers having short floral stalks called pedicels) along its axis. In botany, an axis means a shoot, in this case one bearing the flowers. (Wikipedia)