common barberry
Berberis vulgaris L


Berberis vulgaris is a deciduous shrub that can reach 13 ft. (4 m) in height. Arching branches which come into contact with the soil can produce new plants.
The leaves are oval, 0.75-2 in. (2-5 cm) long, 0.25-0.75 in. (1-2 cm) wide, serrate and occur in clusters of 2-5. Each cluster of leaves is subtended by a short, three-branched spine.
Flowering occurs in May to June, when small, yellow, less than 0.25 in. (6 mm) wide flowers develop in dangling racemes. The flowers have an unpleasant odor.
Berries are red ellipsoids which are less than 0.3 in. (10 mm) in length and contain 1-3 small black seeds. The fruit is dispersed by birds and other wildlife.
Ecological Threat
Berberis vulgaris is shade tolerant which allows it to easily invade woodlands. It is also an alternate host for wheat rust (Puccinia graminis) which makes the control and removal of this invasive shrub of primary importance. It was introduced to America during the 17th century. Fruit of Berberis vulgaris was used to make jam, the flowers for dye and the thorny shrub provided effective livestock fencing. It is native to central and southern Europe.


Selected Images


EDDMapS Distribution

EDDMapS Distribution - This map is incomplete and is based only on current site and county level reports made by experts, herbaria, and literature. For more information, visit

State Regulated List

State Regulated List - This map identifies those states that list this species on their regulated list. For more information, visit

Taxonomic Rank

Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Subclass: Magnoliidae
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Berberidaceae
Genus: Berberis
Subject: Berberis vulgaris L

Synonyms and Other Names

Other Common Names:
common barberry, beet, epine-vinette, epine-vinette commune, European barberry, vinetteier


Plants - Shrub or Subshrub