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About forty species of evergreen shrubs, originating in North America, belong to the genus Maonia.
Mahonia aquifolium is a medium-sized shrub that reaches 150-200 cm in height when ripe. It has a woody stem, dark brown or grayish, erect, not very branched; the shrubs tend to take on a rounded shape over the years, also because of the numerous basal shoots that develop rapidly. The leaves are imparipinnate, divided into 5-9 small oval, pointed leaves, with short spines, dark green; the atropurpurea variety produces dark purple leaves at the end of winter.
In March-April at the apex of the maony stems small golden-yellow flowers bloom, gathered in short panicles, delicately scented.
In late spring this plant produces small dark berries.