CommonBarberry (Berberis vulgaris L.)

Common Barberry
(Berberis vulgaris L.)
Family: Berberidaceae (bear-ber-id-AYsee-ee) - From the Latinized form of the Arabic
name for the Berberis genus. Alternative
Pronunciation: bear-ber-id-AY-see-ay
Genus: Berberis (BEAR-ber-is) –Berberis is
the Latinized form of the Arabic name for the
barberry fruit.
Species: vulgaris (vul-gar-is) – common
Common Barberry
Barberry is an
alien mediumsized thorny
bush shrub
which can
grow up to 3 m.
It grows well in
dry, sunny
Common Barberry
The leaves are
shaped like a
Common Barberry
The pale yellow
appear in midspring to
early summer.
They hang in
clusters of
five or more.
Common Barberry
The bark is light grey to yellowish grey and yi
dye which was once used in the treatment of
Thorns are often in
groups of three in the
axils of the leaves.
Common Barberry
The sour tasting oblong berries are
bright red and translucent. They are
edible and make an excellent jelly. It
once was cultivated for the fruit.
Future location of photo.
Host for Wheat Rust
This plant was sold in nurseries but when it was
discovered to be an alternate host for wheat rust
fungi, which affects wheat, oats and barley, it was
banned from the store shelves. Commercial
production and use of the barberry was banned by
the Government of Canada in 1970. Anyone having
common barberry in their gardens or on their
property must remove them. This plant was very
rare in Altona Forest and was thought not to exist
here any longer but discoveries of a number of these
plants in the spring of 2006 has changed that view. It
has been removed where discovered but may still
exist in the forest. The Japanese barberry, which has
become naturalized, is common in Altona Forest.
Common Barberry
1st Nations People used Barberry to improve appetite, for treating
stomach problems such as ulcers and heartburn, to reduce fever,
diarrhea, indigestion, liver dysfunctiion and urinary tract diseases.
More recently the active ingredients of berberine, columbamine, and
oxyacanthine have shown promise in treatment of illnesses such as
cholera, giardia, shigella, salmonella and E. coli infections as well as
for treating liver diseases, as a stimulant for the circulatory and
respiratory systems and anti-viral activities, and as a treatment for
chronic candidiasis, indigestion and parasites.
Japanese Barberry
(Berberis thunbergii DC.)
Family: Berberidaceae (bear-ber-id-AY-see-ee) –
Genus: Berberis (BEAR-ber-is) – Berberis is the Arabic
name for the barberry fruit.
Species: thunbergii (thun-BERG-ee-eye) –Thunbergii is
named for Carl Peter Thunberg (1743 – 1828). He was
a Swedish botanist, student of Linnaeus, who
entered the service of the Dutch East India Company
as a doctor. He introduced many Japanese plants to
Holland and the Western World. He became a
professor of botany at Uppsala University.
Japanese Barberry
Other members of the family are the blue cohosh
(Caulophyllum thalictroides), which flowers in
terminal clusters and deeply cut leaves and the
mayapple (genus Podophyllum) which has showy
white flowers attached between two large palmate
Japanese barberry is an invasive plant which originally
came from Japan. It grows up to 1.8m but in Altona
Forest is about half that size. This plant is not
susceptible to the rust fungi. It is similar but a
smaller shrub than the common barberry.
Japanese Barberry
The flowers are yellowish, about 1 cm wide, grouped in small
clusters on a long pedicel. They appear from April to May.
Future location of photo.
Japanese Barberry
The alternate, oblong, small, (1.3-3.2 cm long).
simple leaves, have smooth margins and are
clustered on the stems. They are bright green
above, paler below. They turn a wine-colour in late
The stem is woody angled or grooved and
zigzagged and reddish-brown with soft prickles
or thorns which are almost 1 cm long, arranged
singly at intervals along the stem. Older stems are
a gray brown and finely shreddy. It grows from 90
cm to 180 cm. in dense, rounded form.
The inner bark is yellow.
Japanese Barberry
The single small thorns are 13-15 mm long.
In Altona Forest it is found along some paths in
mottled sun. It might also be found in full sun
to light shade.
The fruit, which may persist into the winter, is
a bright shiny orange-red, almost fluorescent
egg-shaped berry and is usually found
arising from the stem in groups of two. It is
about 1 cm long and ripens in the fall.
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