Ontario Weeds: Common barberry
Excerpt from Publication 505, Ontario Weeds,
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Table of Contents
- Other Names
- General Description
- Stems and Roots
- Flowers and Fruit
- Similar Species
- Related Links
Name: Common barberry, Berberis vulgaris
Other Names: épine-vinette commune, épine--vinette, vinettier
Family: Barberry Family (Berberidaceae)
General Description: Perennial, reproducing only by seed
Common barberry (A - spiny branches with clusters of red berries; B - flowering branch).
Stems & Roots: Bushy shrub 1-3m
(3-10ft) high, stems erect; branches gray to yellowish-gray with
short, sharp, slender, 3-branched spines (occasionally single or
unbranched) at nearly every node.
Leaves: Leaves in clusters or short lateral spurs along the main branches, but distinctly alternate (1 per node) on young, rapidly elongating branches; leaf blades broadest above the middle, tapering towards the base, prominently net-veined and grayish-green on the undersurface, with numerous, prominent, sharp or spiny-tipped teeth.
Flowers & Fruit: Flowers bright yellow in elongated, drooping racemes from leaf axils from the ends of branches, small, each with 6 yellow sepals, 6 yellow petals, 6 stamens and 1 pistil; berries bright red, elliptical, about 1cm (2/5in.) long and containing 1 to 3 or rarely more seeds. Flowers in May and June; the yellow sepals and petals fall very soon afterwards, but the bright red berries often hang on all winter.
Habitat: Common barberry was introduced as an ornamental shrub, but now occurs wild along fence lines, road-sides, riverbanks, edges of woods and in wasteland throughout southern Ontario.
Similar Species: It is distinguished from other shrubs by its clusters of bristly toothed leaves, its 3-branched spines, its small yellow flowers in long drooping racemes, and its red berries. This plant is a very important pest because its leaves become infested with the fungus which causes stem rust on oats, barley, rye and wheat; the fungus overwinters in these leaves and spreads from them to cause early-season infections of stem rust on nearby grain crops. Eradication of this shrub is essential to help protect grain crops from the stem rust fungus.
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