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Thunberg's Barberry

Berberis thunbergii

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.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Berberidaceae (Barberry)
Deciduous shrub
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
2 metres tall
Gardens, hedgerows, parks.

Yellow, 6 petals
Tiny pale yellow, insignificant flowers.
Orange-red ovoid berries with long stalks, each containing a single seed.
Deciduous shrub with green leaves that turn red in autumn. After the leaves have fallen off during the winter months, the spiny stems are revealed.
Slightly scented flowers.
Other Names:
Japanese Barberry, Red Barberry.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


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


Thunberg's Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is a popular ornamental shrub, known for its vibrant red or yellow foliage, and small, yellow flowers. Originating from Japan, this plant is named after the Swedish botanist Carl Peter Thunberg.

Thunberg's Barberry is a low maintenance plant that is easy to grow and adapts to a variety of soils. It can reach up to 6 feet in height and width, making it a great option for privacy screens, borders, and mass plantings. This shrub is also versatile, as it can be grown in full sun to partial shade.

In addition to its beautiful foliage, Thunberg's Barberry also provides year-round interest. During the summer, it produces clusters of small yellow flowers, followed by small, red or black berries in the fall. These berries are attractive to birds, making it a great option for bird gardens.

Another benefit of Thunberg's Barberry is its ability to thrive in difficult growing conditions. This shrub is extremely disease and pest-resistant, making it ideal for low maintenance landscapes. It is also drought tolerant and can withstand cold temperatures, making it a great choice for harsh climates.

Despite its many benefits, Thunberg's Barberry can also be invasive in some areas. It is important to check with local authorities before planting to determine if it is a suitable option for your area. If you do decide to add Thunberg's Barberry to your garden, be sure to give it plenty of space to spread out, as it can become quite dense over time.

Thunberg's Barberry is also used in traditional medicine for its various health benefits. The plant contains compounds such as berberine, which have been shown to have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antiparasitic properties. These compounds are believed to help treat a variety of conditions, including digestive issues, skin conditions, and even high blood pressure.

In addition, Thunberg's Barberry is also used in Japanese gardens for its beautiful foliage and compact size. The plant is often pruned into shapes and trained to grow into desired forms, such as a small tree or topiary. This versatility and beauty make Thunberg's Barberry a popular choice for both residential and commercial landscapes.

It is important to note that the plants, leaves and fruits of Thunberg's Barberry contain high levels of berberine, which is toxic to some mammals, including horses and cattle. Care should be taken when planting this shrub near pastures or grazing lands, to ensure the safety of livestock.

In summary, Thunberg's Barberry is a versatile, low maintenance and beautiful ornamental shrub, that offers year-round interest and various health benefits. Whether you're looking to add some color to your garden, create a privacy screen, or simply attract wildlife, Thunberg's Barberry is definitely worth considering.

Aside from its ornamental and medicinal benefits, Thunberg's Barberry also plays an important role in the ecosystem. It is a host plant for a number of butterfly and moth species, providing food and shelter for their larvae. This shrub is also an important food source for birds, particularly in the winter months when other food sources may be scarce.

Thunberg's Barberry can also help control soil erosion and stabilize slopes. Its dense root system helps to hold the soil in place, making it an ideal choice for planting on slopes or near bodies of water. In addition, its ability to tolerate a range of growing conditions makes it a valuable tool in landscaping and reforestation projects.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that Thunberg's Barberry is a popular bonsai plant. Its compact size, vibrant foliage, and ease of training make it a great choice for beginners and experienced bonsai enthusiasts alike. Bonsai enthusiasts often prune and train the shrub to create stunning miniature landscapes, showcasing its beauty and versatility.

In conclusion, Thunberg's Barberry is a versatile, low-maintenance, and beautiful ornamental shrub that offers a range of benefits, both in the garden and in the wider ecosystem. Whether you're looking to add some color to your garden, create a privacy screen, or simply attract wildlife, this shrub is a great option to consider.

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Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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