Berberis vulgaris L.

common barberry

New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

Where native and non-native distributions co-occur in a county, only the native distribution is shown.

North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Common barberry was the first of the barberries (Berberis species) to arrive in the U. S., but it quickly fell out of favor in horticulture because it is an alternate host for the highly damaging wheat rust (a fungal disease of grain crops). It was the focus of concerted eradication efforts in the early 1900's, but some populations still remain in New England. Its serrated leaves, juicy berries, and 3-pronged spines help to distinguish this species from the highly invasive Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii). Early New England colonial settlers brought common barberry with them to use for yellow dye production, jam, and hedgerow barriers.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), forest edges, forests, meadows and fields

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Growth form
the plant is a shrub (a woody plant with several stems growing from the base)
Leaf type
the leaf blade is simple (lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
Leaves per node
there is one leaf per node along the stem
Leaf blade edges
the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
Leaf duration
the leaves drop off in winter (or they wither but persist on the plant)
armature on plant
the plant has spines, prickles, or thorns
Leaf blade length
25–60 mm
Leaf blade width
8–28 mm
Leaf stalk
the leaves have leaf stalks
Fruit type (general)
the fruit is fleshy
Bark texture
the bark of an adult plant is ridged or plated
Twig winter color
  • brown
  • gray
  • yellow
Bud scale number
there are three or more scales on the winter bud, and they overlap like shingles, with one edge covered and the other edge exposed
Show All Characteristics
  • Buds or leaf scars
    Bud scale number
    there are three or more scales on the winter bud, and they overlap like shingles, with one edge covered and the other edge exposed
    Bud scar shape (Fraxinus)
    NA
    Leaf scar arrangement
    there is one leaf scar per node on the stem or twig
    Winter bud distribution
    the winter buds are distributed fairly evenly along the twig
    Winter bud stalks
    the winter buds have no stalks
  • Flowers
    Carpels fused
    NA
    Enlarged sterile flowers
    there are no enlarged sterile flowers on the plant
    Flower petal color
    yellow or green
    Flower symmetry
    there are two or more ways to evenly divide the flower (the flower is radially symmetrical)
    Hairs on ovary (Amelanchier)
    NA
    Hypanthium present
    the flower does not have a hypanthium
    Inflorescence type
    the inflorescence is a raceme (a long unbranched stem with stalked flowers growing along it)
    Number of pistils
    1
    Ovary position
    the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
    Petal and sepal arrangement
    the flower includes two cycles of petal- or sepal-like structures
    Petal appearance
    the petals are thin and delicate, and pigmented (colored other than green or brown)
    Petal fusion
    the perianth parts are separate
    Sepal appearance
    the sepals resemble petals in color and texture
    Sepal cilia (Ilex)
    NA
    Sepal tip glands
    there are no glands at the tips of the sepal lobes
    Sepals fused only to sepals
    the sepals are separate from one another
    Stamen number
    6
    Stamen position relative to petals
    the stamens are positioned opposite the petals (antepetalous)
    Stamens fused
    the stamens are not fused to one another
  • Fruits or seeds
    Berry color
    red
    Fruit tissue origin
    there are no flower parts that form part of the fruit
    Fruit type (general)
    the fruit is fleshy
    Fruit type (specific)
    the fruit is a berry (fleshy, with the wall enclosing one or more sections, with two or more seeds)
    Nut with spines (Fagaceae)
    NA
    Wings on fruit
    there are no wings on the fruit
  • Glands or sap
    Sap color
    the sap is clear and watery
    Stalked glands on fruit (Rosa)
    NA
  • Growth form
    Growth form
    the plant is a shrub (a woody plant with several stems growing from the base)
  • Leaves
    Hairs on underside of leaf blade
    the underside of the leaf has no hairs
    Hairs on upper side of leaf blade
    the upper side of the leaf is not hairy, or has very few hairs
    Leaf blade base shape
    the base of the leaf blade is attenuate (tapering very gradually to a prolonged tip)
    Leaf blade base symmetry
    the leaf blade base is symmetrical
    Leaf blade bloom
    the underside of the leaf has no noticeable bloom
    Leaf blade edges
    the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
    Leaf blade edges (Acer)
    NA
    Leaf blade flatness
    the edges of the leaf are curled under
    Leaf blade hairs
    NA
    Leaf blade length
    25–60 mm
    Leaf blade scales
    there are no scales on the leaf blades
    Leaf blade shape
    • the leaf blade is oblong (rectangular but with rounded ends)
    • the leaf blade is obovate (egg-shaped, but with the widest point above the middle of the leaf blade)
    Leaf blade texture
    the leaf blade is herbaceous (has a leafy texture)
    Leaf blade translucent dots
    there are no translucent dots on the leaf blade
    Leaf blade vein pattern
    the main veins of the leaf blade are pinnate (the secondary veins branch off at intervals from the main central vein) and non-arcuate (not arched towards the leaf tip)
    Leaf blade veins
    the leaf blade has one main vein running from the base toward the tip
    Leaf blade width
    8–28 mm
    Leaf duration
    the leaves drop off in winter (or they wither but persist on the plant)
    Leaf form
    the plant is broad-leaved (with broadly flattened leaf blades)
    Leaf lobe tips (Quercus)
    NA
    Leaf midrib glands
    the midrib of the leaf blade lacks glands on the upper surface
    Leaf stalk
    the leaves have leaf stalks
    Leaf stalk attachment to leaf
    the petiole attaches at the basal margin of the leaf blade
    Leaf stalk nectaries
    there are no nectaries on the leaf stalk
    Leaf stalk shape
    the leaf stalk is not flattened
    Leaf teeth
    • the leaf blade margin has teeth, which themselves have smaller teeth
    • the leaf blade margin is serrate (with forward-pointing teeth) or dentate (with outward-pointing teeth)
    Leaf teeth hairs (Carya)
    NA
    Leaf type
    the leaf blade is simple (lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
    Leaves per node
    there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Specific leaf type
    the leaves are simple (lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • edges of forests
    • forests
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
  • Scent
    Plant odor
    the plant does not have much of an odor, or it has an unpleasant or repellant odor
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Aerial roots
    the plant has no aerial roots
    Bark texture
    the bark of an adult plant is ridged or plated
    Branch brittleness (willows only)
    NA
    Branch cross-section
    the branch is circular in cross-section, or it has five or more sides, so that there are no sharp angles
    First-year cane (Rubus)
    NA
    Lenticels on twigs
    there are no lenticels on the twigs, or they are very hard to see
    Pith type
    the pith inside the twig is solid, completely filled with spongy tissue
    Short shoots
    there are peg- or knob-like shoots present
    Twig bloom
    there is no bloom on the twig
    Twig hairs
    the twigs have few or no hairs on them
    Twig papillae (Vaccinium species only)
    NA
    Twig scales
    there are no scales on the twig surface
    Twig winter color
    • brown
    • gray
    • yellow
    Wings on branch
    the branch does not have wings on it
    armature on plant
    the plant has spines, prickles, or thorns

Wetland Status

Usually occurs in non-wetlands, but occasionally in wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FACU)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present, invasive, prohibited
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present, invasive, prohibited
New Hampshire
present, invasive, prohibited
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

No

Sometimes Confused With

Berberis thunbergii:
leaf margins entire and inflorescence with 2-4 flowers (vs. B. vulgaris, with leaf margins toothed and inflorescence with 10-25 flowers).

Family

Berberidaceae

Genus

Berberis

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

4.  Berberis vulgaris L. E

common barberry. CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Fields, pastures, forests, roadsides.

3×4. Berberis thunbergii × Berberis vulgaris Berberis ×‌ottawensis Schneid. is an uncommon barberry hybrid known from CT, MA, ME, VT. It combines characteristics of its parents. The leaf blades are typically entire, but the lower spines of a given branch are often trifid. The inflorescence is a raceme with a short axis.