Japanese Barberry Japanese Barberry

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Berberis vulgaris

  • Name also: Common Barberry, European Barberry
  • Family: Barberry Family – Berberidaceae
  • Growing form ad height: Shrub. 1–2 m (3–7 ft.).
  • Flower: Regular (actinomorphic), 6–8 mm (0.2–0.3 in.) across. Yellow perianth consists of two whorls. Outer segments 3, inner 6. Inner tepals petaloid, with two nodules at the base. Stamens usually 6. Gynoecium seemingly one-parted, very short-styled. (Probably developed from three fused carpels.)
  • Leaves: Alternate. Long shoots bear both ordinary and spine-like leaves. All leaves on the short shoots usually ordinary vegetative leaves. Blade elliptic, with tapering base, ca. 2 cm long, with toothed margins. Teeth usually have a pointed tip. Spine leaves three-forked.
  • Buds: Round–egg-shaped, rough, greyish-brown, rather small.
  • Fruit: Red, 2-seeded, oval berry.
  • Habitat: Dry, sunny hillocks and forest margins. An ornamental, escaped and naturalized.
  • Flowering time: June–July.

In Finland barberry was earlier regarded as a poisonous shrub. After joining in EU its sale denial was finished. The art is native to Central Europe, the northern and central parts of Southern Europe, and parts of Eastern Europe. It has been grown in the Nordic countries for centuries. It was used for making medicines, seasonings, and various wooden implements and also as a substitute for lemon. Unfortunately, production of barberry seedlings is forbidden in Finland nowadays as the plant act as an intermediate host of wheat rust, a fungus very harmful to cereals.

Linnaeus gave barberries their generic name Berberis after a North African nomad tribe. He thought these plants originated from Africa. In his book on plants, the monk Constantinus Africanus used the name Berberis already in the 11th century. However, in his case the name probably derived from the word ‘barbarian’ the Germans, or Barbarians as the Romans called them, had used barberry as a medicine already for a long time.

Japanese Barberry

Berberis thunbergii

The other barberry sometimes occurring as an escape in Finland, the Japanese barberry is not sensitive to the rust. It differs from B. vulgaris e.g. by its entire leaf margins.

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