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Japanese Barberry Invading

Japanese barberry IMG_5518Japanese Barberry, Berberis thunbergii , is very much like the shrub Burning Bush, Euonymus alatus – it comes into its own in the fall, turning many shades of red and orange, and thus has had great appeal as an ornamental. Birds, including turkeys, grouse, mockingbirds and waxwings, find the fruit of this woody shrub irresistible, and spread the seeds far and wide – a bit too far and wide, in fact. Like Burning Bush, Japanese Barberry has escaped from cultivation and is established and reproducing in the wild so successfully that it is classified as invasive. It is a particular threat to open and second-growth forests. An established colony can eventually grow thick enough to crowd out native understory plants, reducing wildlife habitat and forage, thereby increasing pressure on native plants by white-tailed deer and other herbivores. According to Pennsylvania’s Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources, Japanese Barberry also acts as a nursery for deer ticks, which can transmit numerous diseases.

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5 responses

  1. Barberry may be “evil”, but I confess that I am fond of the plant. Why? Because when I was a kid, barberry was one of the first plants I really took the time to notice. Barberry is, to a degree, responsible for my love of nature and of noticing things.

    Barberry caught my eye somehow, I loved the way its berries tend to hang in rows, vertically, from the stems. Loved how “funny” the leaves looked. Ouch!…I appreciated how splendidly spiny the plant is.

    And WOW!, look at the color of the inside of the stem, when you break or cut the plant…..

    November 5, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    • Hi Tom,
      I, too, share your love for this unique plant…it was a big part of my childhood “botany,” as were the (poisonous) fleshy fruits of Yew…

      November 5, 2013 at 2:26 pm

  2. Marilyn

    I have always admired barberry for its wild ranginess and strong colors. When we were kids, it was a family tradition to cut sprigs with the bright red berries, and lay them between the inside window and the storm window for winter decoration.

    Is all barberry invasive? Would it be responsible to get rid of it?

    November 5, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    • Hi Marilyn,
      I believe all species of barberry are invasive, at least European and Japanese. I can just picture your windows –what a great idea. Unfortunately, it is now a good idea to get rid of it due to seeds spreading.

      November 5, 2013 at 2:27 pm

  3. Kathy Schillemat

    I take every effort to remove barberry, buckthorn, and burning bush from my property whenever and wherever I find them. Beauty masks the harm that these species can do to a forest in crowding out native species. When removing the plants, be sure to bag them up to minimize the seed that fall. Better yet, take them down in the spring, when they haven’t yet borne fruit. If you can’t get them out by the roots, roundup on the remaining branch stalks may be in order. These plants are extremely tenacious.

    November 5, 2013 at 4:54 pm

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