Japanese Barberry

(Berberis thunbergii)

General description:

A low-growing (2-3’ tall), dense, spiny shrub with small oval green leaves that turn reddish brown in fall. Plants have single sharp spines at each node and small, bright red, oblong berries.

Ecological threat:

  • Shade tolerant, drought resistant, and adaptable to a variety of open and wooded habitats, wetlands, old fields and disturbed areas.
  • It forms dense stands in natural habitats, dominating the forest understory by shading out native plants and changing foraging habits of wildlife.
  • Spreads vegetatively though horizontal branches that root freely when they touch ground.
  • Research shows infested forests have higher rates of Lyme disease carrying ticks.
  • White-tailed deer avoid browsing barberry due to the spines, preferring to feed on native plants, giving it a competitive advantage.
  • Prefers well drained soils and sunny habitats, but will survive and produce fruit in even heavily shaded environments.
  • Very invasive and widespread across Eastern United States and the Midwest.
  • Cultivars are widely planted as ornamentals.
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