P81215KJust last Saturday, in the first of my two ‘Six on Saturday’ posts, I mentioned that I had never before seen the berries of barberry. https://tonytomeo.com/2018/12/08/six-on-saturday-too-much-autumn-color-iii-cherries-berries-plums-apples-ginkgo/ Well, just a few days afterward, which was also a few days ago, while getting pictures for the English hawthorn that will be featured on Tuesday, in the same mostly brutalized landscape that I happened to mention in a post last Wednesday, https://tonytomeo.com/2018/12/12/horridculture-disdain-for-bloom/ , I noticed that the barberry shrubs were adorned with these odd red berries. They were quite tiny, not much bigger than grains of white rice. Nonetheless, they were the berries that I had never before seen. Now I know that barberry really does produce berries.

I had heard that such berries had medicinal and culinary application, but because I had never seen the berries before, I believed that the fruit was obtained from other specie. Perhaps the barberries that I am familiar with in landscape situations produce less fruit or no fruit at all because they are sterile interspecific hybrids. Perhaps they rely on specific pollinators who are not endemic here. I never bothered to investigate the lack of berries.

Now that I found a source for the berries, I sort of want to try them. However, they are tiny, and suspended among those wiry and famously thorny stems. Those in this picture are probably all gone by now anyway. Little birds have no problem with the thorns. Besides, even if I got a few, I would not know what to do with them. They can supposedly be used as a flavoring, and taste something like tart citrus. Well, at least I know where to find them if I want to try next year, if the so-called ‘gardeners’ who just ruined the flowering crabapples do not destroy them first.

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9 thoughts on “Bar’berry’

  1. We had these growing in a field when I was growing up and I remember my father saying they were tart, but we never did anything with them. They were just a bit of color through the winter–and the birds ate them. When you said you hadn’t seen them, I wished I’d had a picture, but I never took a camera to them.

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      1. They were there naturally; or as naturally as something might be on the flood plain of a creek. I never questioned where they came from, but we didn’t plant them. I should see whether a species of them are native to prairie environments.

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      2. They had the berries every year. My guess, given the native prairie grasses in the field, is that they were native, but looking at pictures, they had a smoother edged, more ovate leaf than the Allegheny barberry, so could have been some other cultivar that naturalized.

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  2. The first thing that came to mind was the Barbary coast — the middle and western regions of the North African coast. Lo and behold, it seems that Berberis vulgaris is native to that region (as well as some parts of Europe, etc.) and it may well be that our English name barberry is a variation of Barbary. Very interesting — and a really nice plant.

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