T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network

Berberis darwinii (Barberry)

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Berberidaceae
Genus: Berberis 
Species: Berberis darwinii
Common name: Barberry, Darwin's Barberry

There are about 450 species of Berberis but in New Zealand, the Berberis darwinii has become an invasive species where it is now banned from sale and propagation. Traditionally, barberry was used in hedges. With their sharp thorns, a row of barberry shrubs would, indeed, serve as a living barbed-wire fence. It has escaped from gardens and farm hedges into indigenous plant communities via its bird-dispersed seeds. It is now considered a serious threat to indigenous ecosystems throughout New Zealand and is listed on the National Pest Plant Accord.

It is a native to southern South America in southern Chile and Argentina. It is an evergreen thorny shrub growing to 3-4 m tall, with dense branches from ground level. The leaves are small oval, 12-25 mm long and 5-12 mm broad, with a spiny margin; they are borne in clusters of 2-5 together, subtended by a three-branched spine 2-4 mm long. The flowers are orange to yellow, 4-5 mm long, produced in dense racemes 2-7 cm long in spring. The fruit is a small purple-black berry 4-7 mm diameter, ripening in summer.

It was discovered (in Western science) in South America in 1835 by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the 'Beagle'; however, the berries of this species were consumed by prehistoric native peoples in the Patagonian region over millennia. The species was one of many named in honour of Darwin.

A barberry bush in flower November

Barberry flower buds October.

Barberry flowers

The thorns of the Barberry

Photo showing shape the Barberry leaves

The ripe fruit.

Thanks to Wikipedia for text and information: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0