Barberry Berberis spp.
Family: Barbaraceae (Barberry)
Branching: Alternate

There are both native and introduced varieties, with few differences in the winter.  Apparently, the native American Barberry (Berberis canadensis) does not occur in Ontario and is in fact quite endangered in the US due to a past eradication program (it is an alternate host of wheat rust).  Common Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) is the more commonly encountered and is more likely to grow as a conspicuous shrub.  Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) tends to be a lower plant.  Also Common Barberry has fruits in clusters (American Barberry does as well) while Japanese Barberry tends to have fruits on single stalks.  All three species are thorny and American and Common Barberries usually have triple thorns.  The berries can look very similar to those of Bittersweet Nightshade.  These photos are of Common Barberry

Winter twig of Common Barberry

End bud and thorn of Barberry

Another view of the winter twig

Lateral bud and thorns.  The thorns are in triplets on most of the stem.

Thorns on a larger branch

The cluster of Barberry berries, red and elongated.

A cluster of berries on a larger stem

Lateral bud and thorn on a larger branch.  The buds can often resemble Gooseberry.

Thorns on older branches often have 4 or even 5 prongs.

Mature bark

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copyright 2008 Josh Sayers
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