Berberis brevifolia K.Koch
Berberis caroliniana Sweet
Berberis fischeri K.Koch
Berberis integerrima K.Koch
Berberis macracantha K.Koch
Berberis macrocarpa Schrad.
Berberis macrotheca K.Koch
Berberis microphylla K.Koch
Berberis nitens K.Koch
Berberis pisifera Raf.
Berberis serrulata Raf.
Berberis sinensis canadensis (Willd.) Regel
Common Name: Allegheny Barberry
Berberis canadensis is an erect, spiny, deciduous shrub that is much-branched from the base; it can grow from 40 - 200cm tall[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and a medicine. It is occasionally cultivated in gardens for its edible fruit[
] and is also sometimes grown as an ornamental in gardens.
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.
Southeastern N. America - Missouri to West Virginia, south to Alabama and Georgia
Banks of streams and dry woods[
]. In woods or glades, on rocky slopes and near rivers at elevations of 100 - 700 metres[
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Ornamental, Wild
Prefers a warm moist loamy soil but is by no means fastidious, succeeding in thin, dry and shallow soils[
]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Succeeds in full sun or light shade[
Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus[
Plants can be pruned back quite severely and resprout well from the base[
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[
]. This species is susceptible to infection and is often grubbed out if growing in cereal-producing areas[
Fruit - raw or cooked. Agreeably acid[
], they are an acceptable raw fruit in small quantities but are more commonly used in preserves[
]. The juicy, red, oblong-ellipsoid berries are about 10mm long[
Leaves - raw. A trailside nibble[
]. No more details.
A tea made from the roots is used in the treatment of fevers and diarrhoea[
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 roots and wood 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[
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[