Berberis chrysacantha C.K.Schneid.
Berberis conferta boliviana (Lechl.) C.K.Schneid.
Berberis weddellii Lechl.
Berberis boliviana is an erect, much-branched, spiny shrub growing around 250cm tall
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials. The fruits are a very rich source of anthocyanins and have been recommended as a natural food colouring that has a range of health benefits[
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.
S. America - Bolivia, Peru
Steep, grazed hillsides[
]. Dry valleys; at elevations from 2,500 - 4,000 metres.
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Wild
Berberis boliviana is native to higher elevations in the tropics, generally at elevations from 2,500 - 4,000 metres and between latitudes of 20 - 13° south. In the north of its range it is often found in dry valleys, growing in areas where the mean annual rainfall is within the range 840 - 1,000mm, most of which falls in a cool season of around 6 months. In the dry season temperatures can be as high as 28°c in the daytime, but can fall below freezing in the night. In the wet season temperatures are more even, fluctuating between 7 - 14°c[
Species in this genus generally prefer a warm moist loamy soil and light shade but re by no means fastidious, often succeeding in thin, dry and shallow soils[
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[
]. We have no data on susceptibility for this species[
Fruit - raw or cooked. The red-purple berries are around 7mm long. Anecdotal information is that local people do not typically consume this fruit fresh since it dyes the lips and mouth when the first bite is taken. The fruit contains much higher levels of anthocyanins than most other fruits. These have a range of health benefits and potential medicinal applications, and can also be used as a natural colouring in a range of foods[
The fruits are a very rich source of anthocyanins, substances that have a range of potential health benefits and are prescribed as medicine in many countries[
]. They have been reported to have positive effects in the treatment of various micro-circulation diseases resulting from capillary fragility such as preventing cholesterol-induced atherosclerosis, inhibiting platelet aggregation and improving visual function[
]. Recent studies demonstrated potential benefits of anthocyanins on human health, including cancer prevention effects[
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[
It should not be used in combination with Glycyrrhiza species (Liquorice) because this nullifies the effects of the berberine[
Berberine has also shown antitumour activity[
The plant has sharp thorns and is often grown to make an impenetrable hedge in the Andes of Peru and Bolivia[
The dark purple fruits have been used to wash and care for the hair, like a natural colouring shampoo[
The wood is hard and the stems are made into spindles[
The wood is used for firewood[
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, when it should germinate in late winter or early spring[
]. Seed from over-ripe fruit will take longer to germinate[
], whilst stored seed may require cold stratification and should be sown in a cold frame as early in the year as possible[
]. The seedlings are subject to damping off, so should be kept well ventilated[
]. 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[