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Japanese Barberry Berberis thunbergii


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Japanese Barberry
© Britt Slattery, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/

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Family: Berberidaceae, Barberry view all from this family

Description Introduced. A thorny, deciduous shrub from Asia with grooved, brown to purplish-brown branches and simple, unbranched thorns; introduced as a hedge plant and considered an invasive or noxious weed in many areas.
Height: 2-8' (0.6-2.4 m).
Leaves: 1/2-1 1/2" (1.2-4 cm) long; spoon-shaped, with narrow base, wide tip; untoothed.
Flowers: creamy yellow, solitary or borne in small clusters along the stem; April-May.
Fruit: elliptical red berries, 1/2" (1.2 cm) long, in clusters.

Habitat Mainly open areas, such as pastures, open woodlands, roadsides, and wetlands, but also found in mature forests.

Range Asia native; escaped from cultivation in the eastern United States and reported as naturalized from Maine to Georgia and west to North Dakota, Wyoming, and Kansas.

Discussion Japanese Barberry is a common hedge that often escapes to pastures and other open spots and has naturalized in the eastern United States. It spreads mainly through bird droppings. The qualities that make it a good hedge plant make it a dangerous invasive plant; it can form dense, impenetrable masses in native habitats, outcompeting the native local flora, and may even change the soil pH. Although this plant is considered one of the top invasive plants in some eastern states, and its sale is prohibited in Canada, it is still widely sold and promoted in the U.S. garden trade.