Japanese Barberry (alias; Berberis thunbergii DC)

Barberry is a dense, round, thorny shrub that grows 2 to 6 ft. high. In early April to May, tiny pale yellow flowers hang in clusters along the length of the stem. Many people have been seduced by its autumn shades of red, orange and purple, and its bright red winter berries.

A huge 8 ft Barberry bush.

You’ve seen this invader. It’s the first to leaf out in the spring, beating all the native understory to the sunlight and water. And it’s the last to go to sleep in the fall.

Identifying characteristics of the Barberry: spiky thorns, red berries.

It grows in acidic, depleted, unhealthy soil—which describes most of the woodland in the Hudson Valley. This career criminal can outgun any native shrub and turn the landscape into a giant dead zone. When its long branches touch the earth, they form new shoots and and a new plant has been born.  It shares this characteristic with its spicy cousin Multiflora Rose.

Barberry crowds out native plants. It’s spiky thicket of branches provides safe harbor to brown field mice who carry ticks – and Lyme disease. Several studies measured the presence of ticks carrying the Lyme Spirochete and found more than 120 infected ticks per acre where Barberry has run rampant, and under 10 infected ticks where there is no Barberry.

Immature berries. Notice the texture of the stem.

Eradication: We dig out Barberry any time of the year but it is helpful to catch it in March after the snow melts and before the ticks come out in full force. It is also best for us to catch it before late summer to early fall when the berries appear. This will stop the cycle of reproduction by any means other than its roots. We have custom tools to get Barberry out. We always win.

Learn about our all-natural methods for removing Rose and other invasives

A patch of barberry on the Rail Trail in Stone Ridge, NY.

There are many native alternatives to Barberry, including Dwarf Fothergilla, Highbush Blueberry, New Jersey Tea and Virginia Sweetspire. Visit Catskill Native Nursery in Kerhonkson, NY for native alternatives to this invader.

By planting native shrubs that thrive in the same site conditions as Barberry, we can bring your local ecosystem back to health, create abundance, and reduce other invasive species.

Learn how PI Patrol restores woodlands by removing invasive plants

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