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Darwin's Barberry

Berberis darwinii

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Berberidaceae (Barberry)
Semi-evergreen shrub
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
2 metres tall
Gardens, hedgerows, parks, roadsides, woodland.

Orange, 6 petals
Small orange bell-shaped, hanging in clusters.
Small dark purple to black berries which ripen in summer.
Small and oval. The edges are spiny.
Slightly scented flowers.
Other Names:
Red Barberry.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Berberis darwinii, also known as Darwin's barberry or red barberry, is a species of flowering plant that is native to Chile and Argentina. It is a member of the barberry family and is known for its small, yellow flowers and spiny, evergreen leaves. Berberis darwinii is an ornamental plant that is commonly grown in gardens for its attractive foliage and flowers. It is a slow-growing shrub that can reach heights of up to 2 meters (6 feet) and has a dense, upright growth habit. The leaves of Berberis darwinii are oblong in shape and are a glossy, dark green color. The plant produces small, yellow flowers that are followed by small, purple or black berries. Berberis darwinii is hardy and can tolerate a wide range of growing conditions, making it a popular choice for gardeners in many different climates.


Darwin's Barberry (Berberis darwinii) is a shrub species native to Tierra del Fuego, an archipelago located at the southern tip of South America. It is named after Charles Darwin, the famous naturalist and biologist, who first discovered it during his travels on the HMS Beagle.

Darwin's Barberry is an evergreen shrub that can grow up to 2-3 meters tall. It is characterized by its glossy, dark green leaves and yellow flowers that bloom in spring and summer. The plant's fruit, a bright red berry, is a favorite food of birds and other wildlife.

One of the unique features of Darwin's Barberry is its hardiness. It can withstand cold temperatures and strong winds, making it a great option for gardeners in areas with harsh climates. It also requires minimal maintenance and can grow in a variety of soils, including sandy, rocky, and acidic soils.

In addition to its ornamental value, Darwin's Barberry has several medicinal properties. The plant's bark and roots have been used for centuries by indigenous populations to treat digestive problems, skin diseases, and joint pain. Recent studies have also shown that extracts from the plant possess anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties.

However, like many invasive species, Darwin's Barberry can have negative impacts on local ecosystems. It can alter the structure of native vegetation and reduce the diversity of plant species. In some areas, it has become a major threat to native plant communities and is considered a noxious weed.

Despite its hardiness and versatility, the cultivation of Darwin's Barberry has its own set of challenges. For example, the shrub is highly susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases, including scale insects, aphids, and powdery mildew. Gardeners must take proactive measures, such as regularly inspecting the plants for signs of infestation and using appropriate pesticides and fungicides, to prevent damage and keep the shrubs healthy.

Another challenge in growing Darwin's Barberry is its tendency to become leggy and unsightly over time. To mitigate this, regular pruning and shaping is necessary to maintain its desired form and appearance. Gardeners can also opt for cultivars that are bred for their compact and bushy growth habit.

Despite these challenges, the cultivation of Darwin's Barberry continues to grow in popularity among gardeners and horticulturists. Its unique combination of ornamental value, hardiness, and versatility makes it an ideal choice for a variety of landscapes, from large public gardens to small backyard gardens.

It's also worth mentioning that the Berberidaceae family, to which Darwin's Barberry belongs, has a rich history of medicinal use. In traditional Chinese medicine, for example, the roots and bark of many Berberis species have been used for centuries to treat various ailments, such as digestive problems, skin diseases, and joint pain. In modern times, scientific research has confirmed many of these medicinal properties and has shown that Berberis extracts possess anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties.

Darwin's Barberry also has ornamental value in the landscape. Its bright yellow flowers and red berries are visually appealing and provide food for birds and other wildlife. Its glossy, dark green leaves provide a backdrop for the other plants in the garden and its hardiness makes it a reliable choice for areas with harsh climates.

However, as with any plant species, it's important to consider the potential ecological impacts of planting Darwin's Barberry. In areas where it is not native, it can quickly become invasive and outcompete native plant species, altering the structure of the ecosystem and reducing plant diversity. For this reason, it is important to plant Darwin's Barberry in a responsible manner and to control its spread in areas where it has become invasive.

In conclusion, Darwin's Barberry is a beautiful, versatile, and culturally significant plant species that can provide many benefits to gardeners and human health. However, it is important to consider its potential ecological impacts and to properly care for the shrubs in cultivation. With proper care and consideration, Darwin's Barberry can be a valuable addition to any landscape.


Darwin's Barberry filmed in Silverdale, Lancashire on the 2nd April 2023.


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Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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