Barberry Berberis spp.
Family: Barbaraceae (Barberry)
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.
Back to the
© 2008 Josh Sayers
please email me with any questions, comments, or errors