Scientific Classification:

Kingdom Plantae
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Magnoliopsida
Order Ranunculales
Family Berberidaceae
Genus Berberis
Species B. vulgaris
Binomial name Berberis vulgaris

Other Common Names:

The other common names for the shrub barberry are Barbaryn, Barboranne, Berber, Guild, Jaundice Berry, Maiden Barberry, Pepper-ridge, Piperidge, Piprage, Woodsour, Woodsore, Woodsower Tree, and Piperidge Rilts.


Berberis, a name given by Brunfels, is mediaeval Latin of uncertain origin. It is the Arabic name of a fruit meaning shell. The name Guild refers to the yellow bark; the name Jaundice Berry, again, refers to the so-called remedy, by " Doctrine of Signatures ", that the yellow bark was a cure for jaundice, and it was taken in ale for this purpose, being purgative. The genus, Berberis, is thought to be derived from a Phoenician word, barbar, meaning "glossy," in reference to the glossy leaves, and Berberis is also the Arabic name for the fruit. The Italians call this herb Holy Thorn, because it is thought to have formed part of the Crown of Thorns. Barberry can grow in nutrient-poor soils with little to excessive water. It is a scrappy plant-tough and resilient-and over the years "scrappy" usually implies health benefits.

A very ornamental plant the barberry was at one time cultivated for its edible fruit, there are several named varieties.'Dulcis' the fruit of which is sweet or slightly sour. 'Asperma' is a seedless form that was often used in France to make a jam. In allusion to the name Jaundice Berry, Ellis, in Modern Husbandmen, 1750, p. 157, says: "The wood of this tree is said to be such an antidote against the Yellow Jaundice that, if a person constantly feeds himself with a spoon made of it, it will prevent and cure this disease while it is in its infancy."


This is an erect, smooth-stemmed fruit tree or shrub, which tends to grow about 8-10 ft out in an arching manner after a certain distance, giving the boughs an overhanging nature above. The stem is yellow and angled. It bears numerous pointed spines or modified leaves, which are divided into three, or seven, with axillary buds bearing leaves. The leaves are inversely egg-shaped, toothed, alternate or in clusters. The flowers are horizontal or inclined obliquely downward. The 3 inner sepals and 6 petals are curled inwards at the tips, and protect the 6 stamens and 12 honey-glands from the rain. The 3 inner sepals are conspicuous; the yellow petals quite embrace the stamens, while the latter are undisturbed.

The honey-glands are at the base of the petals, thick and oval bodies of orange colour, which are close to the inner side and base of the petal. The clusters or racemes of yellow flowers hang down in a drooping manner. In fruit it may be recognized by their long scarlet character. The anther-stalks touch below, and before being touched bend back and touch the portions of the petals below the honey-glands and adjacent halves of the latter. The honey collects in the angles between the stamens and ovary just where the proboscis is thrust in, and the stamens when touched, being sensitive, spring forward towards the pistil and dust the side of the bee's head with pollen.


Barberry is native to central and southern Europe, northwest Africa and Western Asia but however now it is naturalized in northern Europe, British Isles, Scandinavia and North America.


Barberry thrives best in light deciduous woodland, hedges, roadsides, clearings etc and generally prefers a sunny position and a chalky soil. It is also found in copses and hedges in some parts of England.


Barberry prefers a warm moist loamy soil and light rich rather dry soil. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Succeeds in full sun or light shade but requires a moist soil when grown in the shade of trees. Seed are 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. Germination averages out at about 90%.Suckers, removed in late autumn/early winter and planted out in situ or potted up and planted out in late spring. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus, though it usually breeds fairly true to type. Can be pruned back quite severely, it resprouts well from the base.

Flowering Season

The yellow flowers which droop downwards are generally in bloom between April to May.

Pests and Diseases

Barberries are occasionally subjected to anthracnose, a fungal disease that manifests itself as round, brown spots with reddish margins on the upper leaf surface. Powdery mildew, a fungal disease that causes a white coating on the leaves, Phyllosticta leaf spot, which causes purple spots on the leaves. Insects like aphids, which suck plant juices and coat the leaves with sticky honeydew. The barberry webworm, which is a small black caterpillar with white spots that ties together the leaves and shoot tips.

Parts Used


The stem bark, root bark and the berries arethe most commonly used parts of the plant for its commercial and medicinal parts.

Medicinal Applications


• It is an excellent remedy for dyspepsia and functional derangement of the liver, regulating the digestive powers.

• Barberry acts as a mild purgative and helps in removing constipation.

• It is used in all cases of jaundice, general debility and biliousness and for diarrhoea.

• It also forms an excellent gargle for a sore mouth.

• It possesses febrifuge powers and is used as a remedy for intermittent fevers.

• A good lotion for application to cutaneous eruptions has also been made from it.

• Barberry's are used in the treatment of inflammatory fevers, especially typhus and also in bilious disorders and scurvy.

• Barberry is of great help in treating cases of amoebic dysentery, in the treatment of water borne disorders like cholera and in treating any of the other gastrointestinal infections which are caused by bacteria.

• It is effective in the treatment of hydrasis canadensis and also chronic disorders like eczema and psoriasis.

• The salts extracted from barberry are used as an astringent in eye medications such as drops and eye washes.

• The berberine contained in barberry acts by reducing the inflammation of arthritis.

Commercial Applications

• All barberries make excellent hedge plants because of their uniform growth rate, and they make excellent barrier plants because of the thorny nature of their stems.

• The tannin in the bark is used for tannins leather. Morocco leather, linen, and cloth are dyed from a dye made from Barberrv..


According to the astro reports the shrub barberry is under the dominion of the planet Mars.

Folklores and Myths

Folktale tells that the wood of this tree is said to be such an antidote against the Yellow Jaundice that, if a person constantly feeds himself with a spoon made of it, it will prevent and cure this disease while it is in its infancy. The yellow root was an important dye for baskets, buckskins, and fabric among Native Americans. The early Spanish-Americans used the yellow root to make neck-crosses. Among the Italians, the Barberry bears the name of Holy Thorn, because it is thought to have formed part of the crown of thorns made for our Saviour.