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Japanese Barberry Berberis thunbergii

Other Common Name(s):

Other plants called Japanese Barberry:

Phonetic Spelling
ber-BER-is thun-BER-jee-eye
Description

Berberis thunbergii is a dense, rounded shrub with numerous branches. It easy to transplant and dislikes wet feet. This plant has a medium to a fine texture. This plant is intolerant of high heat loads and is semideciduous in the South.

Being a noxious weed in some Midwestern states and invasive in some of eastern North America, this plant can be weedy or invasive in some places. When birds eat its berries, the plant's seeds are spread, generally growing in shaded woodlands, wetlands, and fields.

 

Quick ID Hints:

  • Stems with only a single spine at each node 
  • Fruit bright red berry often persisting in winter
  • Red and green-leafed varieties
  • Leaves deciduous, obovate to spatulate, entire

Insect, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: This plant is a noxious weed or invasive in some states, which is a problem for native plants (being outcompeted or not receiving enough light from the larger plant creating shade). Having spines on its stems could be an issue for children but also for trash getting caught on the spines through the wind. With all this said, this plant does not have pest problems that would be very serious. Anthracnose, root rots, bacterial leaf spot, wilt, scale, barberry webworm, and aphids are some problems that this plant may struggle with.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Xeriscape Dry Sun Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#red#sun#deciduous#fall color#yellow#full sun#partial shade#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#orange#shrub#red berries#yellow flowers#salt tolerant#spring flowers#winter interest#fall interest#playground#erosion control#deer browsing plant#dye plant#deer resistant#fields#children's garden#wetland#woodland#spring interest#pollinator plant#fantz#winter fruits#urban conditions tolerant#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#spiny#dry soils tolerant
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#red#sun#deciduous#fall color#yellow#full sun#partial shade#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#orange#shrub#red berries#yellow flowers#salt tolerant#spring flowers#winter interest#fall interest#playground#erosion control#deer browsing plant#dye plant#deer resistant#fields#children's garden#wetland#woodland#spring interest#pollinator plant#fantz#winter fruits#urban conditions tolerant#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#spiny#dry soils tolerant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Berberis
    Species:
    thunbergii
    Family:
    Berberidaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Settlers used this plant to make dye.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Asia (Japan)
    Wildlife Value:
    Birds eat theĀ berries.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Textural
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    some shade, heat, drought, urban conditions, range of soil types, erosion, slightly salt tolerant; seldom damaged by deer
    Dimensions:
    Height: 3 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 4 ft. 0 in. - 7 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Oval
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
    Appendage:
    Spines
    Thorns
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Very Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    6-feet-12 feet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    This plant has 0.3-1", bright and glossy red berries in the fall. Persisting into winter, this is an ellipsoidal berry.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Umbel
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    This plant has 0.3- to 0.5-in., pale yellow flowers in late spring (April to May) that are often hidden under the foliage. The drooping inflorescence has a subumbellate arrangement, is grouped in sets of 2-5, is weakly fetid, has pedicels, and has racemes.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Variegated
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Oblong
    Obovate
    Spatulate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    This plant has alternate, simple, and bright green leaves that are 0.5 to 1.3 in. long. Growing in the spine axil, the leaves are narrow at the base. The leaves have bright red to orange fall color. Other colors that the leave may be are foliage green, variegated, reddish-purple, and yellowish. Clustered on dwarf shoots, the leaves are obovate to spatulate-oblong in shape with entire margins.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Stems are angular and dark brown, bearing single spines.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Recreational Play Area
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Barrier
    Border
    Foundation Planting
    Hedge
    Security
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Erosion
    Heat
    Salt
    Urban Conditions
    Problems:
    Problem for Children
    Spines/Thorns
    Weedy