Botanical Name: Berberis aggregata
Species: B. aggregata
Synonyms: Berberis geraldi
Common Names: Clustered barberry, Salmon Barberry
Habitat: Berberis aggregata is a shrub native to western China (Gansu, Hubei, Qinghai, Shanxi, Sichuan). It grows at elevations of 1000–3500 m. It grows in the thickets and streamsides up to 2500 metres in Kansu and W. Szechwan.
Berberis aggregata is a shrub up to 3 m tall with spines along the younger branches. Leaves are ovate, up to 25 mm long, dark green on the upper surface, much lighter underneath. It is in flower from June to July, and the seeds ripen from September to November. . Flowers are borne tightly clustered in a panicle of as many as 25 flowers. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects. Berries are red, spherical, about 7 mm in diameter.
The plant is self-fertile. Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.
Prefers a warm moist loamy soil but it is by no means fastidious, succeeding in thin, dry and shallow soils. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Succeeds in full sun or light shade. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus, especially the closely related B. wilsonae. The true species is seldom seen in gardens, having been replaced with its hybrid progeny. The seedling ‘Sibbertoft Coral’ is very closely related to B. aggregata and fruits well in Britain. Plants can be pruned back quite severely and will resprout well from the base.
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, when it should germinate in late winter or early spring. Seed from over-ripe fruit will take longer to germinate, whilst stored seed may require cold stratification and should be sown in a cold frame as early in the year as possible. The seedlings are subject to damping off, so should be kept well ventilated. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame. If growth is sufficient, it can be possible to plant them out into their permanent positions in the autumn, but generally it is best to leave them in the cold frame for the winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year.
Cuttings of half-ripe wood, mid summer in a frame.
Cuttings of mature wood of the current season’s growth, preferably with a heel, autumn in a frame.
Fruits are eaten – raw or cooked. A fairly acid lemony flavour, it can be eaten in quantity by those who like acid fruits – children seem particularly keen on it. A very reliable cropper, the fruit is borne in abundance along the stems. The fruit is about 7mm in diameter.
Berberine, universally present in rhizomes of Berberis species, has marked antibacterial effects. Since it is not appreciably absorbed by the body, it is used orally in the treatment of various enteric infections, especially bacterial dysentery. It should not be used with Glycyrrhiza species (Liquorice) because this nullifies the effects of the berberine. Berberine has also shown antitumour activity.
The roots and wood of all Berberis species contain alkaloids and, when cut open, are a strong yellow colour. This has been utilized by various cultures to make a yellow dye for cloth etc. This plant is grown as an ornamental plant in the garden.
All parts of the plant contain the alkaloid berberine – this is most concentrated in the roots, stems and inner bark, and least concentrated in the fruits. In small quantities berberine has a range of effective medicinal applications but, in excess, can cause vomiting, lowered blood pressure, reduced heart rate, lethargy, and other ill-effects.
The fruit of most, if not all, members of this genus are more or less edible and can be eaten in quantity since the levels of berberine in the fruit are very low. . The leaves and sap of this plant are toxic, too.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.