Japanese Mahonia is often confused with Mahonia bealei, but the foliage is a darker, glossier green, and the texture is finer, with more leaves per stem. According to Michael Dirr, each flower is larger and brighter yellow than M. bealei. It is evergreen, and produces fragrant yellow flower panicles in February and March. Bees and insects benefit from the blooms on warm winter days, and birds love the glaucous blue fruit in early summer. The new taxonomist designation for Mahonia japonica is Berberis japonica.