Herbs & Plants

Berberis canadensis

Botanical Name: Berberis canadensis
Family: Berberidaceae
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Ranunculales
Genus: Berberis
Species: B. canadensis

*Berberis caroliniana Sweet
*Berberis caroliniana var. macrocarpa (Schrad.) Zabel
**Berberis integerrima K.Koch
*Berberis macracantha K.Koch
*Berberis macrocarpa Schrad.
*Berberis macrotheca K.Koch
*Berberis microphylla K.Koch
*Berberis nitens K.Koch
*Berberis pisifera Raf.
*Berberis serrulata Raf.
*Berberis sinensis f. canadensis (Willd.) Regel
*Berberis sinensis var. canadensis (Willd.) Regel
*Berberis vulgaris var. canadensis Willd.

Common Names: Allegheny Barberry, American barberry

Habitat: Berberis canadensis is native to Eastern N. America – Virginia to Georgia, Alberta and Indiana. It grows on the
banks of streams and dry woods. In woods or glades, on rocky slopes and near rivers at elevations of 100 – 700 metres.

Berberis canadensis is a deciduous Shrub growing 3 to 6 ft high at a midium rate, with the branchlets not downy, but thickly covered with small, warty lenticels, and armed with three-parted spines. Leaves narrowly obovate, from 1 to 2.5 in. long, tapering very gradually at the base, the apex rounded or acute, but always terminating in a short spine, the margin toothed, sometimes remotely so, sometimes almost entire, glabrous. Racemes 1 to 1.5 in. long, bearing from six to fifteen yellow flowers. Fruit oval or nearly globose, red. It is in flower in May, and the seeds ripen in August. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects. The plant is self-fertile.

The flowers of Berberis canadensis are arranged in a raceme. They are usually 2–5 cm (1–2 in) in length and have six petals. The petals are cup-shaped and notched at the tips. In addition, flowers are set in a double row pattern, with one petal sitting on top of another. They range in color from yellow to a dull whitish yellow with a bright green stigma protruding out of the middle.


Prefers a warm moist loamy soil but 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. The plant is an alternate host of ‘black stem rust’ of cereals and so it is often grubbed out when growing wild in cereal-producing areas. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus. Plants can be pruned back quite severely and resprout well from the base. For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form – tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. The plant growth habit is multistemmed with multiple stems from the crown .

Edible Uses:
The fruit of Berberis canadensis are used extensively by many people, and is rich in vitamin C. Historically, it has been known as a major source of nutrition for the indigenous people of southeastern United States. The juicy red berries of the plant can be cooked to make jelly. The juice of the berries is also a sought-after refreshment. Lastly the berries of the B. canadensis are pounded to produce a paste similar to oatmeal. In addition, the berries are sometimes used to make alcoholic beverages

Medicinal Uses:
Native Americans, specifically the Cherokee, have been known to use Berberis canadensis as a remedy for diarrhea. The bark of the plant would be placed in water and then drunk to help alleviate the symptoms.

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. A tea made from the roots is used in the treatment of fevers and diarrhoea.

Other Uses:
A yellow dye is obtained from the root.

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.


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