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Useful Temperate Plants

Berberis asiatica

Roxb. ex DC.

Berberidaceae

+ Synonyms

Berberis hypoleuca Lindl.

Berberis ilicifolia Roxb.

Common Name:

Berberis asiatica

General Information

Berberis asiatica is an erect, spiny, deciduous to evergreen shrub that is freely branched from the base; it can grow up to 4 metres tall[
1100
Title
A Revision of Berberis ss (Berberidaceae) in Nepal
Publication
Edinburgh Journal of Botany, 69, pp 447­522
Author
B. Adhikari, C. A. Pendry, R. T. Pennington and R. I. Milne
Publisher
 
Year
2012
ISBN
 
Description
A comprehensive revision of the Barberry species in Nepal, reducing a number of previously accepted species to synonymy and describing two new species.
].
The fruits are often harvested from the wild for use as a food - they are said to be the best species in India for making raisins. The plant is also used medicinally and for fencing. It is grown as an ornamental in gardens.
It is proposed that the plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2016)[
1100
Title
A Revision of Berberis ss (Berberidaceae) in Nepal
Publication
Edinburgh Journal of Botany, 69, pp 447­522
Author
B. Adhikari, C. A. Pendry, R. T. Pennington and R. I. Milne
Publisher
 
Year
2012
ISBN
 
Description
A comprehensive revision of the Barberry species in Nepal, reducing a number of previously accepted species to synonymy and describing two new species.
].

Known Hazards

All parts of the plant contain the alkaloid berberine - this is most concentrated in the roots, stems and inner bark, and least concentrated in the fruits. In small quantities berberine has a range of effective medicinal applications but, in excess, can cause vomiting, lowered blood pressure, reduced heart rate, lethargy, and other ill-effects.
The fruit of most, if not all, members of this genus are more or less edible and can be eaten in quantity since the levels of berberine in the fruit are very low.

Botanical References

11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
,
1100
Title
A Revision of Berberis ss (Berberidaceae) in Nepal
Publication
Edinburgh Journal of Botany, 69, pp 447­522
Author
B. Adhikari, C. A. Pendry, R. T. Pennington and R. I. Milne
Publisher
 
Year
2012
ISBN
 
Description
A comprehensive revision of the Barberry species in Nepal, reducing a number of previously accepted species to synonymy and describing two new species.

Range

E. Asia - Himalayas (Nepal)

Habitat

Shrubberies, grassy and rocky slopes; at elevations up to 2,500 metres[
51
Title
Flowers of the Himalayas.
Publication
 
Author
Polunin. O. and Stainton. A.
Publisher
Oxford Universtiy Press
Year
1984
ISBN
-
Description
A very readable and good pocket guide (if you have a very large pocket!) to many of the wild plants in the Himalayas. Gives many examples of plant uses.
]. Found in heavy shade, on north-facing slopes[
67
Title
Berberis and Mahonia.
Publication
 
Author
Ahrendt.
Publisher
Journal of the Linnean Society, 57
Year
1961
ISBN
-
Description
Not for the casual reader, it lists all the known species in these two genera together with botanic descriptions and other relevant details for the botanist.
] and on open hillsides in the drier areas[
146
Title
A Manual of Indian Timbers.
Publication
 
Author
Gamble. J. S.
Publisher
Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Singh
Year
1972
ISBN
-
Description
First written in the 19th century, but still a classic, giving a lot of information on the uses and habitats of Indian trees. Not for the casual reader.
].

Properties

Conservation StatusLeast Concern
Edibility Rating *  *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitEvergreen Shrub
Height3.50 m
Growth RateMedium
PollinatorsInsects, Self
Self-fertileYes
Cultivation StatusOrnamental, Wild

Cultivation Details

Berberis asiatica is not very hardy outside the milder regions of the temperate zone. It does experience frost and snow in its native range and can tolerate occasional, short-lived temperatures falling as low as -5°c. Plants grow very well in southwest England, for example[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
,
59
Title
Trees and Shrubs in Cornwall.
Publication
 
Author
Thurston.
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Trees and shrubs that succeed in Cornwall based on the authors own observations. Good but rather dated.
]., but are often cut to the ground in other parts of the country (though they will generally resprout from the base if the winter is not too severe)[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
,
67
Title
Berberis and Mahonia.
Publication
 
Author
Ahrendt.
Publisher
Journal of the Linnean Society, 57
Year
1961
ISBN
-
Description
Not for the casual reader, it lists all the known species in these two genera together with botanic descriptions and other relevant details for the botanist.
].
Prefers a warm moist loamy soil and light shade but it is by no means fastidious, succeeding in thin, dry and shallow soils[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Plants are often found growing in dense shade in the wild[
67
Title
Berberis and Mahonia.
Publication
 
Author
Ahrendt.
Publisher
Journal of the Linnean Society, 57
Year
1961
ISBN
-
Description
Not for the casual reader, it lists all the known species in these two genera together with botanic descriptions and other relevant details for the botanist.
].
Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
]. This species is often offered under the names of B. Chitria or B. Glaucocarpa[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
Plants can be pruned back quite severely, they resprout well from the base[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
Some Berberis species (especially Berberis vulgaris) harbour the black stem-rust fungus (Puccinia graminis Persoon). This is a major disease of wheat and barley crops and can spread from infected barberries to the grain crop. The sale or transport of susceptible or untested species of Berberis is illegal in the United States and Canada[
270
Title
Flora of N. America
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/fna/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line version of the flora with an excellent description of the plant including a brief mention of plant uses.
]. This species has been found to be susceptible to the disease[
1155
Title
Rust Susceptible Berberis, Mahoberberis, and Mahonia Plants
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
https://www.ars.usda.gov/midwest-area/st-paul-mn/cereal-disease-lab/docs/barberry/rust-susceptible-berberis-mahoberberis-and-mahonia/
Publisher
United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research S
Year
2017
ISBN
 
Description
A list of Berberidaceae that are considered to be susceptible to black stem-rust fungus.
].

Edible Uses

Fruit - raw or dried and used like raisins[
2
Title
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Hedrick. U. P.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1972
ISBN
0-486-20459-6
Description
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
,
3
Title
Growing Unusual Fruit.
Publication
 
Author
Simmons. A. E.
Publisher
David & Charles; Newton Abbot.
Year
1972
ISBN
0-7153-5531-7
Description
A very readable book with information on about 100 species that can be grown in Britain (some in greenhouses) and details on how to grow and use them.
,
51
Title
Flowers of the Himalayas.
Publication
 
Author
Polunin. O. and Stainton. A.
Publisher
Oxford Universtiy Press
Year
1984
ISBN
-
Description
A very readable and good pocket guide (if you have a very large pocket!) to many of the wild plants in the Himalayas. Gives many examples of plant uses.
,
105
Title
Tanaka's Cyclopedia of Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Tanaka. T. & Nakao S.
Publisher
Keigaku Publishing; Tokyo
Year
1976
ISBN
-
Description
The most comprehensive list of edible plants I've come across. Only the briefest entry for each species, though, and some of the entries are more than a little dubious. Not for the casual reader.
,
158
Title
Forest Flora of Chakrata, Dehra Dun and Saharanpur.
Publication
 
Author
Gupta. B. L.
Publisher
Forest Research Institute Press
Year
1945
ISBN
-
Description
A good flora for the middle Himalayan forests, sparsly illustrated. Not really for the casual reader.
,
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
]. This species is said to make the best Indian raisins[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
]. Fully ripe fruits are fairly juicy with a pleasantly acid flavour, though there are rather a lot of seeds[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]. The fruit is abundantly produced in Britain[
2
Title
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Hedrick. U. P.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1972
ISBN
0-486-20459-6
Description
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
]. The dark purple, ovoid to globose berries are 7 - 10mm long[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
,
1100
Title
A Revision of Berberis ss (Berberidaceae) in Nepal
Publication
Edinburgh Journal of Botany, 69, pp 447­522
Author
B. Adhikari, C. A. Pendry, R. T. Pennington and R. I. Milne
Publisher
 
Year
2012
ISBN
 
Description
A comprehensive revision of the Barberry species in Nepal, reducing a number of previously accepted species to synonymy and describing two new species.
].

Medicinal

The roots are used in treating ulcers, urethral discharges, ophthalmia, jaundice, fevers etc[
240
Title
Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement).
Publication
 
Author
Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C.
Publisher
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi.
Year
1986
ISBN
-
Description
Very terse details of medicinal uses of plants with a wide range of references and details of research into the plants chemistry. Not for the casual reader.
,
1157
Title
The fruit extract of Berberis crataegina DC: exerts potent antioxidant activity and protects DNA integrity
Publication
DARU Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Author
Mohammad Charehsaz; Hande Sipahi et al
Publisher
 
Year
2015
ISBN
2008-2231
Description
 
]. The roots contain 2.1% berberine, the stems 1.3%[
240
Title
Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement).
Publication
 
Author
Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C.
Publisher
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi.
Year
1986
ISBN
-
Description
Very terse details of medicinal uses of plants with a wide range of references and details of research into the plants chemistry. Not for the casual reader.
].

The bark and wood are crushed in Nepal then boiled in water, strained and the liquid evaporated until a viscous mass is obtained. This is antibacterial, laxative and tonic[
272
Title
Plants and People of Nepal
Publication
 
Author
Manandhar. N. P.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
2002
ISBN
0-88192-527-6
Description
Excellent book, covering over 1,500 species of useful plants from Nepal together with information on the geography and peoples of Nepal. Good descriptions of the plants with terse notes on their uses.
]. It is taken internally to treat fevers and is used externally to treat conjuctivitis and other inflammations of the eyes[
272
Title
Plants and People of Nepal
Publication
 
Author
Manandhar. N. P.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
2002
ISBN
0-88192-527-6
Description
Excellent book, covering over 1,500 species of useful plants from Nepal together with information on the geography and peoples of Nepal. Good descriptions of the plants with terse notes on their uses.
].

Tender leaf buds are chewed and held against affected teeth for 15 minutes to treat dental caries[
272
Title
Plants and People of Nepal
Publication
 
Author
Manandhar. N. P.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
2002
ISBN
0-88192-527-6
Description
Excellent book, covering over 1,500 species of useful plants from Nepal together with information on the geography and peoples of Nepal. Good descriptions of the plants with terse notes on their uses.
].

The fruit is cooling and laxative[
272
Title
Plants and People of Nepal
Publication
 
Author
Manandhar. N. P.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
2002
ISBN
0-88192-527-6
Description
Excellent book, covering over 1,500 species of useful plants from Nepal together with information on the geography and peoples of Nepal. Good descriptions of the plants with terse notes on their uses.
].

The alkaloid berberine, which is universally present in the roots and stems of Berberis species, has marked antibacterial effects. Since it is not appreciably absorbed by the body, it is used orally in the treatment of various enteric infections, especially bacterial dysentery[
218
Title
Medicinal Plants of China
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.
Publisher
Reference Publications, Inc.
Year
1985
ISBN
0-917256-20-4
Description
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
].
It should not be used in combination with Glycyrrhiza species (Liquorice) because this nullifies the effects of the berberine[
218
Title
Medicinal Plants of China
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.
Publisher
Reference Publications, Inc.
Year
1985
ISBN
0-917256-20-4
Description
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
].
Berberine has also shown antitumour activity[
218
Title
Medicinal Plants of China
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.
Publisher
Reference Publications, Inc.
Year
1985
ISBN
0-917256-20-4
Description
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
].

Other Uses

A yellow dye is obtained from the roots and stems[
272
Title
Plants and People of Nepal
Publication
 
Author
Manandhar. N. P.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
2002
ISBN
0-88192-527-6
Description
Excellent book, covering over 1,500 species of useful plants from Nepal together with information on the geography and peoples of Nepal. Good descriptions of the plants with terse notes on their uses.
].

The spiny branches are used to make fencing around fields in Nepal[
272
Title
Plants and People of Nepal
Publication
 
Author
Manandhar. N. P.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
2002
ISBN
0-88192-527-6
Description
Excellent book, covering over 1,500 species of useful plants from Nepal together with information on the geography and peoples of Nepal. Good descriptions of the plants with terse notes on their uses.
].

Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, when it should germinate in late winter or early spring[
78
Title
Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.
Publication
 
Author
Sheat. W. G.
Publisher
MacMillan and Co
Year
1948
ISBN
-
Description
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
]. Seed from over-ripe fruit will take longer to germinate[
78
Title
Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.
Publication
 
Author
Sheat. W. G.
Publisher
MacMillan and Co
Year
1948
ISBN
-
Description
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
], whilst stored seed may require cold stratification and should be sown in a cold frame as early in the year as possible[
80
Title
Hardy Woody Plants from Seed.
Publication
 
Author
McMillan-Browse. P.
Publisher
Grower Books
Year
1985
ISBN
0-901361-21-6
Description
Does not deal with many species but it is very comprehensive on those that it does cover. Not for casual reading.
]. The seedlings are subject to damping off, so should be kept well ventilated[
113
Title
The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation.
Publication
 
Author
Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W.
Publisher
Athens Ga. Varsity Press
Year
1987
ISBN
0942375009
Description
A very detailed book on propagating trees. Not for the casual reader.
]. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame. If growth is sufficient, it can be possible to plant them out into their permanent positions in the autumn, but generally it is best to leave them in the cold frame for the winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year.
Cuttings of half-ripe wood, mid summer in a frame.
Cuttings of mature wood of the current season's growth, preferably with a heel, autumn in a frame[
78
Title
Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.
Publication
 
Author
Sheat. W. G.
Publisher
MacMillan and Co
Year
1948
ISBN
-
Description
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
].
Cite as: Temperate Plants Database, Ken Fern. temperate.theferns.info. 2018-11-21. <temperate.theferns.info/plant/Berberis+asiatica>

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