Family: Barberry [Berberidaceae]




[BERBERIS] Barberries

The Berberis genus contains 10 shrubs that escape into the wild in the UK. They varying in height from 1m to 3m. Most are much more likely to be found in gardens, parks and as municipal hedging. There are a great many different cultivars of Berberis and the Author has not necessarily been able to identify the plants with 100% certainty. But even if the ID is slightly in error, they do look like the ones shown.

Most have straight spines on the twigs, some spines are simple whilst others are conjoined at the base to others, often set at right-angles in a 3-partite arrangement. Some species can have spines that are between 3-partite and 7-partite. Most have small yellow flowers with 5 petals that do not open properly, and 5 cupped sepals that may open as wide as 180° and look like a beetle just about to fly off (albeit one with 5 wings). Only a few have either orange petals (Darwin's Barberry) or yellow with red blotches (Thunberg's Barberry). The shrubs are bisexual.

The berries of most species are blue-black when ripe, some exhibiting a bluish bloom like those of Sloe, but some are red instead (such as Barberry and Thunberg's Barberry). The berries are usually edible but acrid. The shape of the berries (whether round, oblong, balloon-shaped or mis-shapen) and the shape and length of the style protruding from the far end are identifying features. The leaf shape, the sheen (or lack of thereof) and the colour are also useful in identification.

Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) Photo: © RWD

Mrs Wilson's Barberry (Berberis wilsoniae) Photo: © RWD

Chinese Barberry (Berberis julianae) Photo: © RWD

Darwin's Barberry (Berberis darwinii) Photo: © RWD

Thunberg's Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) Photo: © RWD

Hedge Barberry (Berberis × stenophylla) Photo: © RWD

[MAHONIA] Oregon-Grapes

Oregon-Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) Photo: © RWD

Family: Barberry [Berberidaceae]

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