Barberry bark: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information about barberry

Barberry is a small and bushy deciduous evergreen shrub belonging to the Berberidaceae family growing up to 4 m high. The leaves are small oval, 2–5 cm long and 1–2 cm broad, with a serrated margin; they are borne in clusters of 2-5 together, subtended by a three-branched spine 3–8 mm long. The flowers are yellow, 4–6 mm across, produced on 3–6 cm long panicles in late spring. The fruit is an oblong red berry 7–10 mm long and 3–5 mm broad, ripening in late summer or autumn; they are edible but very sour, and rich in Vitamin C.

common names
& nomenclature

Carl Linnaeus gave barberries their generic name Berberis after a North African nomad tribe. He thought these plants originated from Africa.

However, the 11th century monk Constantinus Africanus (Constantine the African) had already used the name Berberis in his own book on plants. However, in his case the name probably derived from the word ‘barbarian’.

Other sources say the name derives from the Berber word meaning 'shell', and indeed that the plant's name is related to that of the Barbary coast.

Also known as:
barberry, mountain grape, kingor, daruhaldi, daruharidra, berberis, european barberry, jaundice berry, pepperidge bush, sowberry, sow berry, and berberis dumetorum

Barberry, the European ornamental landscaping shrub
Barberry bark: Where in the World
habitat and range for barberry

Barberry is native to central and southern Europe, northwest Africa and western Asia; it is also naturalized in northern Europe, including the British Isles and Scandinavia, and North America. Although not naturalized there, in rural New Zealand it has been widely cultivated as a hedge on farms. It is cultivated for its fruits, primarily in Iran.

Barberry bark: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting barberry

Dry sunny grasslands, savannas, thickets, but also humid dense woodlands or forests.

Plants prefer sandy, loose-textured soils or deep loam soil, but can adapt to other soil conditions.

Barberry seeds germinate best when shallowly buried in shaded areas where alternating temperatures exceed 50 °F (10 °C). In general, common barberry is described as germinating "readily" and producing vigorous seedlings. Germination of seeds contained in intact fruits may be delayed compared to seeds without fleshy fruits.

In field plots in southern Iowa, bare seeds generally germinated in the 1st year, while seeds in fruits germinated in the 2nd year. Germination occurred throughout the growing season. Plants can also be propagated by layering or rhizome cuttings.

The thorny shrubs make harvesting difficult, so in most places, they are not widely consumed.

The berries are preserved in sugar, in syrup, or candied, also occasionally pickled in vinegar.

Leaves and bark can be dried and stored in a cool, dry place.

Except for its fruits and seeds, the plant is mildly poisonous.