The Oregon grape is one of the State flowers which has the prestige of legal status behind its queenship. It belongs to the barberry family, other members of which are the twin-leaf, the blue cohosh, and the May apple. Between its dainty blossoms of early summer and its bright purple berries of late fall, it wins admiration wherever it grows. It lives close to the ground and is not a climber like the ordinary American wild grape. But no fruit of field or forest ever made a more delicious jelly than that of this handsome shrub of the West. Though the berries resemble the huckleberry, the foliage looks like that of the holly, and the wood inclines to a yellow-cast red. Its range is wide, extending as far east as Nebraska, as far south as Arizona, and as far north as British Columbia.
It is one of the strange things about nature that so many of its creatures are unable to perpetuate their species without a periodic change of environment. For instance, the germ of yellow fever dies and disappears where it cannot spend part of its time in the human body and part in the stomach of a stegomyia mosquito. Likewise, cedar rust becomes extinct if it cannot live one year on an apple tree and the next on a cedar tree. In the case of one species of wheat rust the barberry is necessary to its continued hold on life. This rust cannot live without changing hosts periodically.
But the Oregon grape is wiser than some of its immediate kinsfolk. It has a preference for situations where the communication of rust spores to it from wheat and from it to wheat is not quite so readily accomplished. It is found most abundant and beautiful on the foothills and mountain slopes deep in Oregon's lumber lands.