The genus Berberis, commonly known as the barberries, includes 700 species of shrubby plants found throughout temperate and subtropical Eurasia, Africa and the Americas. About 200 of these have compound leaves, and traditionally have been classified as a separate genus, Mahonia, but more recent molecular analyses indicate that this separation is not founded and that the simple leaved group (true Berberis) is polyphyletic with respect to the compound leaf group (Kim et al. 2004 and studies cited within). Species numbers are in debate, and efforts are ongoing to compile a complete list and database of taxa (Ulloa 2014). Berberis is the largest of the 16 genera in the basal eudicot family Berberidaceae (Kim et al. 2004).
Species diversity is greatest in South America, Africa and Asia; Europe and North America have native species as well. The most well-known Berberis species is the “European” barberry, Berberis vulgaris, which is common from North Africa and Europe through central Asia. Barberries have been cultivated for gardens; several of the most common cultivars are: B. darwinii, B. dictyophylla, B. julianae, B. thunbergii, and B. verruculosa (Wikipedia 2014).
Barberry species grow to between 1-5 meters (3-15 feet) in height, and there are deciduous and evergreen species. Many of the species have spines on the shoots and along the margins of the leaves. Many produce small berries, either elongate or spherical, that are edible and nutritious, if sharply sour. While not common in European cuisine, Iranian dishes frequently use the berries of B. vulgaris. The symbols of Patagonia are Calafate (B. microphylla and the similar B. heterophylla), and Michay (B. darwinii), the dark blue berries of which are made into jams and eaten fresh in Argentina and Chile. Bark, root bark and berries of Barberry species have a long history of medicinal use in multiple cultures for symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, upset stomach. Active chemical components are isoquinolone alkaloids, especially berberine, which shows antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, hypotensive, sedative, anticonvulsant and antioxidant effects (Wikipedia 2014; Erlich 2013).
- Ehrlich, S.D. 3 March 2013. Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide: Barberry. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/barberry#ixzz3JXhYL4I0. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved November 19, 2014 from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/barberry.
- Kim, Young-Dong Kim, Y-D, S-H Kim and L. R. Landrum, 2004. Taxonomic and phytogeographic implications from ITS phylogeny in Berberis (Berberidaceae). J Plant Res 117:175–182. DOI: 10.1007/s10265-004-0145-7
- Ulloa, April 2014. The Berberis Checklist. Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved November 18, 2014 from http://www.tropicos.org/Project/Berberis.
- Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 12 November 2014. Berberis. Retrieved November 19, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Berberis&oldid=633553259
Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Anomoia purmunda feeds within fruit of Berberis
Foodplant / open feeder
larva of Arge berberidis grazes on live leaf of Berberis
Foodplant / pathogen
Armillaria mellea s.l. infects and damages Berberis
Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Auricularia auricula-judae is saprobic on wood of Berberis
Plant / associate
larva of Meliscaeva auricollis is associated with aphid-infested Berberis
Foodplant / saprobe
cyphelloid basidiocarp of Merismodes bresadolae is saprobic on dead, fallen, decayed twig of Berberis
Foodplant / saprobe
superficial perithecium of Nectria pseudopeziza is saprobic on dead branch of Berberis
Remarks: season: 9-4
Foodplant / parasite
root of Orobanche lucorum parasitises live root of Berberis
Remarks: captive: in captivity, culture, or experimentally induced
Foodplant / pathogen
Pseudomonas syringae pv. berberidis infects and damages cankered stem of Berberis
Foodplant / parasite
aecium of Puccinia graminis f.sp. tritici parasitises live Berberis
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage
Specimens with Sequences:542
Specimens with Barcodes:230
Species With Barcodes:113
Berberis (//) is a large genus of deciduous and evergreen shrubs from 1–5 m (3.3–16.4 ft) tall found throughout the temperate and subtropical regions of the world (apart from Australia). Species diversity is greatest in South America, Africa and Asia; Europe and North America have native species as well. The most well-known Berberis species is the so-called European barberry, Berberis vulgaris, which is common in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia. Many of the species have spines on the shoots and along the margins of the leaves.
The genus Berberis is characterised by dimorphic shoots, with long shoots which form the structure of the plant, and short shoots only 1–2 mm (0.039–0.079 in) long. The leaves on long shoots are non-photosynthetic, developed into three-spined thorns 3–30 mm (0.12–1.18 in) long; the bud in the axil of each thorn-leaf then develops a short shoot with several normal, photosynthetic leaves. These leaves are 1–10 cm (0.39–3.94 in) long, simple, and either entire, or with spiny margins. Only on young seedlings do leaves develop on the long shoots, with the adult foliage style developing after the young plant is 1–2 years old.
Many deciduous species, such as Berberis thunbergii or B. vulgaris, are noted for their attractive pink or red autumn color. In some evergreen species from China, such as B. candidula or B. verruculosa, the leaves are brilliant white beneath, a feature valued horticulturally. Some horticultural variants of B. thunbergii have dark red to violet foliage.
The flowers are produced singly or in racemes of up to 20 on a single flower-head. They are yellow or orange, 3–6 mm (0.12–0.24 in) long, with six sepals and six petals in alternating whorls of three, the sepals usually colored like the petals. The fruit is a small berry 5–15 mm (0.20–0.59 in) long, ripening red or dark blue, often with a pink or violet waxy surface bloom; in some species, they may be either long and narrow, but are spherical in other species.
Some authors regard the compound-leaved species as a separate genus, Mahonia. Mahonia and Berberis sensu stricto are best regarded as one genus. There are no consistent differences between the two groups other than the compound leaves, and studies suggest that the simple-leaved group is very likely polyphyletic.
Berberis vulgaris (European barberry) and Berberis canadensis (American barberry) serve as alternate host species of the wheat rust fungus (Puccinia graminis), a grass-infecting rust fungus that is a serious fungal disease of wheat and related grains. For this reason, cultivation of B. vulgaris is prohibited in many areas, and imports to the United States are forbidden. The North American B. canadensis, native to Appalachia and the Midwest United States, was nearly eradicated for this reason, and is now rarely seen extant, with the most remaining occurrences in the Virginia mountains.
Some Berberis species have become invasive when planted outside of their native ranges, including B. glaucocarpa and B. darwinii in New Zealand (where it is now banned from sale and propagation), and green-leaved B. thunbergii in much of the eastern United States.
Several species of Berberis are popular garden shrubs, grown for such features as ornamental leaves, yellow flowers, or red or blue-black berries. Numerous cultivars and hybrids have been selected for garden use. Low-growing Berberis plants are also commonly planted as pedestrian barriers. Taller-growing species are valued for crime prevention; being very dense, viciously spiny shrubs, they make very effective barriers impenetrable to burglars. For this reason they are often planted below potentially vulnerable windows, and used as hedges.
Species in cultivation include:-
- B. 'Georgei'
- B. x lologensis 'Apricot Queen'
- B. x media 'Red Jewel'
- B. x ottawensis f. purpurea 'Superba'
- B. x stenophylla 'Corallina Compacta'
- B. x stenophylla Lindl (golden barberry)
Berberis vulgaris grows in the wild in much of Europe and West Asia. It produces large crops of edible berries, rich in vitamin C, but with a sharp acid flavor. In Europe for many centuries the berries were used for culinary purposes in ways comparable to how citrus peel might be used. Today in Europe they are very infrequently used. The country in which they are used the most frequently today is Iran where they are referred to as "Zereshk" (زرشک) in Persian. The berries are common in Iranian (Persian) cuisine such as in rice pilafs (known as "Zereshk Polo") and as a flavoring for poultry meat. Due to their inherent sour flavor, they are sometimes cooked with sugar before being added to Persian rice. Persian markets sell Zereshk dried. In Russia they are sometimes used in jams (especially the mixed berry ones) and its extract is a common flavoring for soft drinks and candies.
Berberis microphylla (known as Calafate), and B. darwinii (Michay) are two species found in Patagonia in Argentina and Chile. Their edible purple fruits are used for jams and infusions; anyone who tries a berry is said to be certain to return to Patagonia. The calafate and michay are symbols of Patagonia.
The dried fruit of Berberis vulgaris is used in herbal medicine. The chemical constituents include isoquinolone alkaloids, especially berberine. One study reports that it is superior to metformin in treating polycystic ovary syndrome.[non-primary source needed]
Historically, yellow dye was extracted from the stem, root, and bark.
Berberis aristata, from the Himalayas
Berberis harrisoniana, from southwestern Arizona
Berberis vulgaris, flowers and foliage, cultivated in Denmark
- Flora of North America, vol 3
- Flora of China Vol. 19 Page 715 小檗属 xiao bo shu Berberis Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 1: 330. 1753.
- Loconte, H., & J. R. Estes. 1989. Phylogenetic systematics of Berberidaceae and Ranunculales (Magnoliidae). Systematic Botany 14:565-579.
- Marroquín, Jorge S., & Joseph E. Laferrière. 1997. Transfer of specific and infraspecific taxa from Mahonia to Berberis. Journal of the Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science 30(1):53-55.
- Laferrière, Joseph E. 1997. Transfer of specific and infraspecific taxa from Mahonia to Berberis. Bot. Zhurn. 82(9):96-99.
- "RHS Plant Selector Berberis 'Georgei' AGM / RHS Gardening". Apps.rhs.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
- "RHS Plant Selector Berberis × lologensis 'Apricot Queen' AGM / RHS Gardening". Apps.rhs.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
- "RHS Plant Selector Berberis × media 'Red Jewel' AGM / RHS Gardening". Apps.rhs.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
- "RHS Plant Selector Berberis × ottawensis f. purpurea 'Superba' / RHS Gardening". Apps.rhs.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
- "RHS Plant Selector Berberis × stenophylla 'Corallina Compacta' AGM / RHS Gardening". Apps.rhs.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
- "RHS Plant Selector Berberis × stenophylla Lindl. AGM / RHS Gardening". Apps.rhs.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
- See e.g. "Barberry" @ Alternative Medicine @ University of Maryland Medical Center
- "Berberine Compared to Metformin in Women with PCOS - Natural Medicine Journal: The Official Journal of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians". Natural Medicine Journal. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
- Tomlinson, C., ed. (1866). Tomlinson's Cyclopaedia of Useful Arts. London: Virtue & Co. Vol I, page 97.
- Murrills, Angela (2005-11-24). "Best Eating: Check, please". Straight.com. Retrieved 2007-05-02.
- Wilkinson, Bobbie; Tom Wilkinson (2004-08-15). "It's an Adventure in Persian Cuisine at Darya Kabob". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-05-02.
- Arellano, Gustavo (2004-03-18). "Naan & Kabob". Orange County Weekly. Retrieved 2007-05-02.
- Royal New Zealand Institute of horticulture. Berberis glaucocarpa
Another species, Berberis kumaonensis Schneid., of this Section (Sec. Angulosae), with single flowered inflorescences and 3-fid spines, has been doubtfully recorded from Azad Kashmir (Muzaffrabad Dist.; Bangar, Inayat 2113 (K)by R.R. Stewart (l.c. 281). This record is probably not of true Berberis kumaonensis but just a form of Berberis parkeriana Schneid.
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