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Edible uses


Fruit - raw or cooked[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8]. Rich in vitamin C[9], the fruit has a very acid flavour and is mainly used in preserves[10], though children and some adults seem to like it raw when it is fully ripe[K]. A refreshing lemon-like drink can be made from the fruit[8]. The fruits are about 10mm long[11].

Young leaves - used as a flavouring or as an acid nibble[12][8]. They can be used in much the same way as sorrel (Rumex acetosa)[5].

The dried young leaves and shoot tips make a refreshing tea[5][8].

Unknown part



Material uses

Plants can be grown as a medium-size hedge in exposed positions but they cannot tolerate extreme maritime exposure[13]. They are very tolerant of trimming but can also be left untrimmed if required[K].

A good quality yellow dye is obtained from the roots, bark and stem[14][15][16][10][17]. As well as being used on cloth, it is also used to stain wood[17]. The unripe fruit is dried and used as beads[18].

Wood - soft, very hard, fine grained, yellow. Used for carving, toothpicks, mosaics etc[15][16][19]. It is also used as a fuel[20].

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Barberries have long been used as a herbal remedy for the treatment of a variety of complaints. All parts of the plant can be used though the yellow root bark is the most concentrated source of active ingredients. The plant is mainly used nowadays as a tonic to the gallbladder to improve the flow of bile and ameliorate conditions such as gallbladder pain, gallstones and jaundice[21].

The bark and root bark are antiseptic, astringent, cholagogue, hepatic, purgative, refrigerant, stomachic and tonic[14][4][5][22][16][23][24]. The bark is harvested in the summer and can be dried for storing[14]. It is especially useful in cases of jaundice, general debility and biliousness[14], but should be used with caution[23]. The flowers and the stem bark are antirheumatic[25]. The roots are astringent and antiseptic[24]. They have been pulverized in a little water and used to treat mouth ulcers[26]. A tea of the roots and stems has been used to treat stomach ulcers[26]. The root bark has also been used as a purgative and treatment for diarrhoea[26] and is diaphoretic[24]. A tincture of the root bark has been used in the treatment of rheumatism, sciatica etc[24]. The root bark is a rich source of the alkaloid berberine (about 6%)[27]. Berberine, universally present in rhizomes of Berberis species, has marked antibacterial effects. Since it is not appreciably absorbed by the body, it is used orally in the treatment of various enteric infections, especially bacterial dysentery[25]. It should not be used with Glycyrrhiza species (Liquorice) because this nullifies the effects of the berberine[25]. Berberine has also shown antitumour activity[25] and is also effective in the treatment of hypersensitive eyes, inflamed lids and conjunctivitis[17]. A tea made from the fruits is antipruritic, antiseptic, appetizer, astringent, diuretic, expectorant and laxative[4][24]. It is also used as a febrifuge[26]. The fruit, or freshly pressed juice, is used in the treatment of liver and gall bladder problems, kidney stones, menstrual pains etc[5]. The leaves are astringent and antiscorbutic[4]. A tea made from the leaves is used in the treatment of coughs[24].

The plant (probably the inner bark) is used by homeopaths as a valuable remedy for kidney and liver insufficiency[17].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions



Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, when it should germinate in late winter or early spring[28]. Seed from over-ripe fruit will take longer to germinate[28], whilst stored seed may require cold stratification and should be sown in a cold frame as early in the year as possible[29]. The seedlings are subject to damping off, so should be kept well ventilated[30]. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame. If growth is sufficient, it can be possible to plant them out into their permanent positions in the autumn, but generally it is best to leave them in the cold frame for the winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Germination averages out at about 90%[31][30].

Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season's growth, preferably with a heel, October/November in a frame[28].

Suckers, removed in late autumn/early winter and planted out in situ or potted up and planted out in late spring[2][11].

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Berberis vulgaris. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


Prefers a warm moist loamy soil but it is by no means fastidious, succeeding in thin, dry and shallow soils[6][11]. Prefers a light rich rather dry soil according to another report[32]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Succeeds in full sun or light shade[11. 200] but requires a moist soil when grown in the shade of trees[33].

Hardy to about -35°c[34]. A very ornamental plant[6], the barberry was at one time cultivated for its edible fruit, there are several named varieties[6][11]. 'Dulcis' the fruit of which is sweet or slightly sour[11]. 'Asperma' is a seedless form that was often used in France to make a jam[35][8]. An alternate host of 'black-stem rust' of wheat so it has been extensively grubbed up from its habitats[2][6][15][36].

Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus[37], though it usually breeds fairly true to type[29]. Can be pruned back quite severely, it resprouts well from the base[11].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Berberis vulgaris. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Berberis vulgaris.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Berberis vulgaris
Imported References
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
light shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
    Native Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Adapted Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Native Geographical Range
    None listed.
    Native Environment
    None listed.
    Ecosystem Niche
    None listed.
    Root Zone Tendancy
    None listed.
    Deciduous or Evergreen
    Herbaceous or Woody
    Life Cycle
    Growth Rate
    Mature Size
    3 x 2 meters
    Flower Colour
    Flower Type

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    1. ? 1.01.1 Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-20459-6 (1972-00-00)
    2. ? Simmons. A. E. Growing Unusual Fruit. David and Charles ISBN 0-7153-5531-7 (1972-00-00)
    3. ? 3.03.1 Mabey. R. Food for Free. Collins ISBN 0-00-219060-5 (1974-00-00)
    4. ? Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants. MacDonald ISBN 0-356-10541-5 (1984-00-00)
    5. ? Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants. Hamlyn ISBN 0-600-37216-2 (1981-00-00)
    6. ? Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement. Murray (1981-00-00)
    7. ? 7.07.1 Saunders. C. F. Edible and Useful Wild Plants of the United States and Canada. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-23310-3 (1976-00-00)
    8. ? Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (1990-00-00)
    9. ? 9.09.1 Stuart. M. (Editor) The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism Orbis Publishing. London. ISBN 0-85613-067-2 (1979-00-00)
    10. ? Polunin. O. Flowers of Europe - A Field Guide. Oxford University Press ISBN 0192176218 (1969-00-00)
    11. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
    12. ? 12.012.1 Kunkel. G. Plants for Human Consumption. Koeltz Scientific Books ISBN 3874292169 (1984-00-00)
    13. ? 13.013.1 Rosewarne experimental horticultural station. Shelter Trees and Hedges. Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1984-00-00)
    14. ? Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
    15. ? Triska. Dr. Hamlyn Encyclopaedia of Plants. Hamlyn ISBN 0-600-33545-3 (1975-00-00)
    16. ? Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
    17. ? Phillips. R. & Foy. N. Herbs Pan Books Ltd. London. ISBN 0-330-30725-8 (1990-00-00)
    18. ? 18.018.1 Coon. N. The Dictionary of Useful Plants. Rodale Press ISBN 0-87857-090-x (1975-00-00)
    19. ? 19.019.1 Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (1974-00-00)
    20. ? 20.020.1 Gamble. J. S. A Manual of Indian Timbers. Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Singh (1972-00-00)
    21. ? 21.021.1 Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants Dorling Kindersley. London ISBN 9-780751-303148 (1996-00-00)
    22. ? 22.022.1 Lust. J. The Herb Book. Bantam books ISBN 0-553-23827-2 (1983-00-00)
    23. ? Mills. S. Y. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism. ()
    24. ? Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America. Houghton Mifflin Co. ISBN 0395467225 (1990-00-00)
    25. ? Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China Reference Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-917256-20-4 (1985-00-00)
    26. ? Weiner. M. A. Earth Medicine, Earth Food. Ballantine Books ISBN 0-449-90589-6 (1980-00-00)
    27. ? 27.027.1 Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement). Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi. (1986-00-00)
    28. ? Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers. MacMillan and Co (1948-00-00)
    29. ? 29.029.1 McMillan-Browse. P. Hardy Woody Plants from Seed. Grower Books ISBN 0-901361-21-6 (1985-00-00)
    30. ? 30.030.1 Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation. Athens Ga. Varsity Press ISBN 0942375009 (1987-00-00)
    31. ? Gordon. A. G. and Rowe. D. C. f. Seed Manual for Ornamental Trees and Shrubs. ()
    32. ? Thompson. B. The Gardener's Assistant. Blackie and Son. (1878-00-00)
    33. ? Holtom. J. and Hylton. W. Complete Guide to Herbs. Rodale Press ISBN 0-87857-262-7 (1979-00-00)
    34. ? Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Shrubs. Pan Books ISBN 0-330-30258-2 (1989-00-00)
    35. ? Thomas. G. S. Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers and Bamboos. Murray ISBN 0-7195-5043-2 (1992-00-00)
    36. ? Komarov. V. L. Flora of the USSR. Israel Program for Scientific Translation (1968-00-00)
    37. ? F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
    38. ? Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press (1962-00-00)

    "image:Berberis vulgaris munich.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

    Facts about "Berberis vulgaris"RDF feed
    Article is incompleteYes +
    Article requires citationsNo +
    Article requires cleanupYes +
    Belongs to familyBerberidaceae +
    Belongs to genusBerberis +
    Functions asHedge +
    Has common nameBarberry +
    Has drought toleranceIntolerant +
    Has edible partUnknown part +, Fruit + and Leaves +
    Has edible useSeasoning +, Unknown use + and Tea +
    Has fertility typeSelf fertile +, Insects + and Self +
    Has flowers of typeHermaphrodite +
    Has growth rateModerate +
    Has hardiness zone3 +
    Has imageBerberis vulgaris munich.JPG +
    Has lifecycle typePerennial +
    Has material partUnknown part +
    Has material useBeads +, Dye +, Fuel + and Wood +
    Has mature height3 +
    Has mature width2 +
    Has medicinal partUnknown part +
    Has medicinal useAntibacterial +, Antipruritic +, Antirheumatic +, Antiseptic +, Appetizer +, Astringent +, Cancer +, Cholagogue +, Diaphoretic +, Diuretic +, Expectorant +, Hepatic +, Homeopathy +, Laxative +, Ophthalmic +, Purgative +, Refrigerant +, Stomachic + and Tonic +
    Has primary imageBerberis vulgaris munich.JPG +
    Has search nameberberis vulgaris + and x +
    Has shade toleranceLight shade +
    Has soil ph preferenceAcid +, Neutral + and Alkaline +
    Has soil teclayture preferenceClay +
    Has soil teheavy clayture preferenceHeavy clay +
    Has soil teloamyture preferenceLoamy +
    Has soil tesandyture preferenceSandy +
    Has sun preferenceFull sun +
    Has taxonomy nameBerberis vulgaris +
    Has water requirementsmoderate +
    Is deciduous or evergreenDeciduous +
    Is herbaceous or woodyWoody +
    Is taxonomy typeSpecies +
    Tolerates nutritionally poor soilNo +
    Uses mature size measurement unitMeters +