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Common barberry (Berberis vulgaris)

Common barberry Common Names: European barberry, Pepperidge bush

Description: This plant is both poisonous and medicinal. Except for its fruits and seeds, the plant contains berberine, which is poisonous but also known to have therapeutic effects.

Habit: Armed, deciduous shrub growing 8-10 feet in height and 6 feet wide.

Leaves: Leaves grow in clusters on arched hanging branches. Small, toothed, ovate, alternate, dull green above and grayish below. On young sprouts they are spiny.

Stems: Gray in color and covered with sharp spines at nodes. The inner wood is yellow in color. Spines are double- or triple- branched.

Flowers: Yellow in color, perfect, 1/2 inch long, occur in drooping racemes 1-2 inches long and have an unpleasant odor.

Fruit and seeds: Berries are oblong and scarlet red to purple in color. They contain 1-3 small, black seeds.

Habitat: Native to Europe and Great Britain. Found in shaded and open woods, pastures, thickets, hedges, fencerows, roadsides, and clearings.

Reproduction: Spread by seed and by vegetative expansion.

Similar species: Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is similar but differs by its sharply toothed leaf margins and 3-pronged spines under each leaf cluster. It is also taller and more loosely branched than Japanese barberry.

Monitoring and rapid response: In early spring, use a hoe, weed wrench or mattock to uproot the entire bush and associated roots; remove entire root system to prevent resprouts. Use gloves to protect hands from spines. Regular mowing helps re-establishment after removal. Can be effectively controlled using any of several readily available general use herbicides such as glyphosate or triclopyr. Its natural enemy is black stem grain rush (Puccinia graminis).

Credits: The information provided in this factsheet was gathered from the U.S Forest Service Weed of the Week publication.

Individual species images that appear with a number in a black box are courtesy of the network ( photo author credits may not be included due to the small display size of the images and subsequent difficulty of reading the provided text. All other images appear courtesy of Google (

Common Name:

Common barberry

Scientific Name:

Berberis vulgaris







USDA Symbol: