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Berberis thunbergii

Berberis thunbergii DC.

Berberis thunbergii DC. var. atropurpurea Chenault

Japanese Barberry, Thunberg’s Barberry, Red Barberry

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassMagnoliidaeIncludes magnolias, nutmeg, bay laurel, cinnamon, avocado, black pepper, and many others
OrderRanunculalesBasal (evolved earlier) eudicots, also called “true dicots”
FamilyBerberidaceaeBarberry family
GenusBerberisThe Latinized form of the Arabic name for this fruit
SpeciesthunbergiiFor Swedish naturalist Carl Peter Thundberg, apostle of Linnaeus

About plant names...

This Japanese native has naturalized through much of eastern North America, and is considered an invasive by many. There are many cultivars available, with red, yellow, green, yellow-green and variegated foliage.

Identification: Barberry is 3-6' (91-182 cm) high. Stems are woody and grooved. Leaves are bright green and spatula-shaped, much wider at the ends, about ¾" (1.9 cm) long and ¼" (6.3 mm) wide. In the fall, the leaves orange, deep red, or purple in color. There are ¼" (6.3 mm) thorns along the branches, which arch and overlap each other. Flowers are about ¼" (6.3 mm) around and yellow, distributed along branches. Berries are bright red, with a distinctive oval shape, ¼-⅜" (7-10 mm) long and ¹/₁₆-³/₁₆" (3-5 mm) in diameter, distributed fairly evenly along branches.

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese Barberry, Thunberg’s Barberry, Red Barberry)

The unusual shape of the berries is unique to barberries.

Edibility: Berries are edible, but not tasty and not used in cooking. Other parts of the plant are mildly poisonous, due largely to the presence of berberine.

Below is a comparison of two common species of barberry:

 

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese Barberry, Thunberg’s Barberry, Red Barberry)

9/30/2013 · Moose Point State Park, Searsport, ME
≈ 6 × 9" (16 × 23 cm)

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese Barberry, Thunberg’s Barberry, Red Barberry)

10/3/2010 · Tarkill Interpretive Trail, Rte 402, Poconos, Peck’s Pond, PA
≈ 14 × 9" (35 × 23 cm) ID is uncertain

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese Barberry, Thunberg’s Barberry, Red Barberry)

9/22/2013 · Squannacook River Wildlife Management Area, off route 119, Townsend, MA
≈ 6 × 5" (14 × 12 cm)

  You are here
Berberis thunbergii

Berberis vulgaris
Common Name

Japanese Barberry

Common Barberry
Plant 3-6' (91-182 cm) high. Stems are woody and grooved. There are ¼" (6.3 mm) thorns along the branches, which arch and overlap each other. 3-9½' (1-3 m) in height, with grooved stems. There are ¼" (6.3 mm) thorns along the branches.
Flowers ¼" (6.3 mm) around and yellow, distributed along branches. Yellow, ⅛-³/₁₆" (4-6 mm) across, in panicles 1-2" (3-6 cm) long.
Leaves Bright green and spatula-shaped, much wider at the ends, about ¾" (1.9 cm) long and ¼" (6.3 mm) wide. In the fall, the leaves turn orange, deep red, or purple in color. Oval, ¾-1¾" (2-5 cm) × ⅜-¾" (1-2 cm), finely toothed, in clusters that include a spine ⅛-¼" (3-8 mm) long and 2-5 leaves.
Fruit Berries are bright red, with a distinctive oval shape, ¼-⅜" (7-10 mm) long and ¹/₁₆-³/₁₆" (3-5 mm) in diameter, distributed fairly evenly along branches. Berries are bright red, with a distinctive oval shape, ¼-⅜" (7-10 mm) long and ¹/₁₆-³/₁₆" (3-5 mm) in diameter, hanging in tight clusters.
Range/ Zones

Type Wild Wild
Occurrence Common to invasive Fairly common

 

Online References:

Berberis thunbergii at the University of Connecticut Plant Database

Berberis thunbergii on Wikipedia

Berberis thunbergii at Ohio State University

Berberis thunbergii on the Connecticut Botanical Society's Connecticut wildflowers site

Berberis thunbergii at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

Berberis thunbergii on the Plant Conservation Alliance’s Alien Plant Working Group Least Wanted List

Berberis thunbergii on the USDA Forest Service's Fire Effects Information Database

Berberis thunbergii on eFloras

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese Barberry, Thunberg’s Barberry, Red Barberry)

9/22/2013 · Squannacook River Wildlife Management Area, off route 119, Townsend, MA
≈ 7 × 6" (17 × 15 cm)

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese Barberry, Thunberg’s Barberry, Red Barberry)

9/30/2013 · Moose Point State Park, Searsport, ME
≈ 8 × 6" (20 × 14 cm)

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese Barberry, Thunberg’s Barberry, Red Barberry)

8/20/2009 · Hayes Woods Nature Trail, Shirley St., Pepperell, MA
≈ 8 × 5" (19 × 13 cm) ID is uncertain

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese Barberry, Thunberg’s Barberry, Red Barberry)

7/23/2017 · Pine Grove Furnace State Park, PA
≈ 5 × 8" (13 × 20 cm)

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese Barberry, Thunberg’s Barberry, Red Barberry)

4/21/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, MA
≈ 9 × 6" (22 × 14 cm) ID is uncertain

Berberis thunbergii description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 2 Aug 2017.

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Berberis thunbergii (Japanese Barberry, Thunberg’s Barberry, Red Barberry)

7/7/2017 · By Jacquelyn Boyt

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese Barberry, Thunberg’s Barberry, Red Barberry)

10/23/2009 · Pearl Hill State Park, Townsend, MA
≈ 9 × 6" (22 × 14 cm) ID is uncertain

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese Barberry, Thunberg’s Barberry, Red Barberry)

7/27/2009 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton, MA
≈ 15 × 10" (37 × 25 cm) ID is uncertain

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese Barberry, Thunberg’s Barberry, Red Barberry)

8/20/2009 · Hayes Woods Nature Trail, Shirley St., Pepperell, MA
≈ 9 × 6" (23 × 15 cm) ID is uncertain

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese Barberry, Thunberg’s Barberry, Red Barberry)

10/3/2010 · Tarkill Interpretive Trail, Rte 402, Poconos, Peck’s Pond, PA
≈ 14 × 9" (35 × 23 cm) ID is uncertain

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese Barberry, Thunberg’s Barberry, Red Barberry)

10/23/2009 · Pearl Hill State Park, Townsend, MA
≈ 5 × 3½" (13 × 9.2 cm) ID is uncertain

Range:

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