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Genus Berberis Family Berberidaceae

Synonyms: Mahonia APNI*

Description: Evergreen or deciduous shrubs; with or without spines.

Leaves usually 1-foliolate, though apparently simple, or articulated and imparipinnate, borne on short [or long] shoots; leaves of main stems often reduced to spines, commonly deeply divided into 3 or more terete spines or >3 spinose teeeth.

Inflorescence usually racemes terminating lateral shoots or a panicle [or flowers solitary].

Berry ovoid or obovoid or globose, topped by persistent stigma; infructescence reflexed.

M. Maiden


Distribution and occurrence: World: over 500 spp., N & S Amer., Eurasia, N Afr. Australia: 5 spp. (naturalised), N.S.W., Vic., Tas., S.A. Includes widely cultivated species.

The spines occurring on the stems of many species of Berberis are highly modified leaves.

Text by adapted from G.J. Harden, Flora of NSW 1 (1990); updated April 2017, P.G. Kodela
Taxon concept: Australian Plant Census (accessed April 2017)

 Key to the species 
1Stems without spines; leaves 1-pinnate, >10 cm longBerberis aquifolium
Stems with spines; leaves apparently simple, <7 cm long2
2Spines on stems mostly simple (occasionally 3-fid) and single in nodes; leaves entireBerberis thunbergii
Spines on stems usually deeply divided into 3 (rarely undivided) or stem leaves reduced to spinose teeth and usually more than 3; leaves usually toothed
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3Stem leaves reduced to spinose teeth, usually more than 3, 5–10 mm long; leaves less than 2 cm long, more or less hexagonal, apex spinose, each margin with 2 spinose teeth or rarely only 1Berberis darwinii
Spines on stems usually deeply divided into 3, rarely undivided, each 8–30 mm long; leaves more than 2 cm long, obovate to elliptic, apex acute or obtuse, entire or with few to numerous marginal teeth
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4Evergreen plant; leaves irregularly toothed, margins with few to several pairs of teeth; fruit more or less globose, red to black, style 1–2 mm longBerberis floribunda
Deciduous plant; leaves regularly toothed with numerous fine teeth; fruit more or less oblong, red, stigma more or less sessile
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Berberis vulgaris

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