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Useful Temperate Plants

Berberis microphylla

G.Forst.

Berberidaceae


Long known as Berberis buxifolia, taxonomists have found an earlier name for the plant and so now it needs to be called Berberis microphylla[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].
This is a very variable species, especially in the shape of the leaf, and the plant has at times been treated as a number of distinct species. However, these variations aries mainly as a result of the habitat in which the plant grows and are not consistent even within the local population, so recognizing even a variety at this point seems unwarranted[
679
Title
Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Volume 86
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden
Year
1999
ISBN
 
Description
Among many articles on botany, is a treatment of the genus Beilschmiedia.
].

+ Synonyms

Berberis antucoana C.K.Schneid.

Berberis barilochensis Job

Berberis buxifolia Lam.

Berberis cristata (Lam.) Lavallée

Berberis cuneata DC.

Berberis dulcis Sweet

Berberis heterophylla Juss. ex Poir.

Berberis inermis Pers.

Berberis magellanica Dippel

Berberis marginata Gay

Berberis minor J.R.Forst. ex DC.

Berberis morenonis Kuntze

Berberis parodii Job

Berberis rotundifolia Lindl.

Berberis spinosa Comm. ex Decne.

Berberis spinosissima (Reiche) Ahrendt

Berberis tricuspidata Sm. ex DC.

Common Name: Magellan Barberry

Berberis microphylla
Fruiting branch
Photograph by: Jason Hollinger
Creative Commons License
Berberis microphylla Berberis microphylla Berberis microphylla

General Information

Berberis microphylla is an erect, spiny, evergreen shrub, much branched from the base; it can grow up to 300cm tall[
679
Title
Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Volume 86
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden
Year
1999
ISBN
 
Description
Among many articles on botany, is a treatment of the genus Beilschmiedia.
].
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and source of a dye. It is often grown as an ornamental, especially its dwarf form, and is also used to make hedges and screens.
The plant has escaped from cultivation in some areas, such as Ireland[
413
Title
Global Invasive Species Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.issg.org/database/welcome/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Very detailed information on almost 400 species (with more being added) of plants that have become weeds in areas outside their native range.
].

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.
,
679
Title
Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Volume 86
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden
Year
1999
ISBN
 
Description
Among many articles on botany, is a treatment of the genus Beilschmiedia.

Range

S. America - southern Chile and southern Argentina

Habitat

Coastal scrub, forest margins, clearings and moister areas in grass[
69
Title
Flora of Tierra del Fuego.
Publication
 
Author
Moore. D. M.
Publisher
Anthony Nelson.
Year
1983
ISBN
0-904614-05-0
Description
Standard work for this part of S. America. Excellent details of habitat and a few notes on plant uses.
]. A shrub ol disturbed habitats, doing especially well in pastures and along roads; at elevations from sea level in the south of its range to 2,500 metres in the north[
679
Title
Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Volume 86
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden
Year
1999
ISBN
 
Description
Among many articles on botany, is a treatment of the genus Beilschmiedia.
].

Properties

Weed PotentialYes
Edibility Rating *  *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *
HabitEvergreen Shrub
Height2.50 m
PollinatorsInsects, Self
Self-fertileYes
Cultivation StatusOrnamental, Wild

Cultivation Details

Berberis microphylla is a fairly hardy plant, it can tolerate occasional winter temperatures falling as low as -15°c[
184
Title
Shrubs.
Publication
 
Author
Phillips. R. & Rix. M.
Publisher
Pan Books
Year
1989
ISBN
0-330-30258-2
Description
Excellent photographs and a terse description of 1,900 species and cultivars.
], though it can be deciduous in cold winters[
188
Title
The RHS Gardener's Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers
Publication
 
Author
Brickell. C.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd.
Year
1990
ISBN
0-86318-386-7
Description
Excellent range of photographs, some cultivation details but very little information on plant uses.
].
Prefers a warm moist loamy soil and light shade but it is by no means fastidious, succeeding in thin, dry and shallow soils and in full sun[
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.
The dwarf Berberis microphylla nana is the form of this species that is most commonly found growing in Britain. It is very free flowering but to date (1994) we have not seen this form bearing fruit[
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 species is supposed to be self-fertile so it is possible that this form is sterile.
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]).
].
Plants can be pruned back quite severely and 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.
]. We have no data on susceptibility for this species[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

Edible Uses

Fruit - raw or used in conserves[
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.
,
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.
,
69
Title
Flora of Tierra del Fuego.
Publication
 
Author
Moore. D. M.
Publisher
Anthony Nelson.
Year
1983
ISBN
0-904614-05-0
Description
Standard work for this part of S. America. Excellent details of habitat and a few notes on plant uses.
,
139
Title
Flora of Chile. (in Spanish)
Publication
 
Author
?
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Some information about the useful plants of Chile.
,
177
Title
Plants for Human Consumption.
Publication
 
Author
Kunkel. G.
Publisher
Koeltz Scientific Books
Year
1984
ISBN
3874292169
Description
An excellent book for the dedicated. A comprehensive listing of Latin names with a brief list of edible parts.
]. Freely borne in Britain. Large and black with a pleasant flavour, they are eaten out of hand[
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.
]. Said to be the best flavoured of the South American barberries, the fruit is hardly acid and but slightly astringent[
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 green unripe fruits can be used like gooseberries in pies etc[
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.
,
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.
]. The subglobose berries are 7 - 11mm in diameter[
679
Title
Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Volume 86
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden
Year
1999
ISBN
 
Description
Among many articles on botany, is a treatment of the genus Beilschmiedia.
].

Medicinal

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.
].

Agroforestry Uses:

The dwarf form, var. 'Nana' makes a good dwarf hedge to 1 metre tall[
182
Title
Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers and Bamboos.
Publication
 
Author
Thomas. G. S.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1992
ISBN
0-7195-5043-2
Description
Contains a wide range of plants with a brief description, mainly of their ornamental value but also usually of cultivation details and varieties.
].

Other Uses

The roots and stems of all Berberis species contain alkaloids and, when cut open, are a strong yellow colour. This has been utilized by various cultures to make a yellow dye for cloth etc[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

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. Roots in 4 - 8 weeks[
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.
]. Pot up in spring[
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.
].
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.
].
Some forms produce suckers[
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.
].

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