Botanical Name: Berberis empetrifolia
Species: B. empetrifolia
Common Names: Heath barberry
Habitat: Berberis empetrifolia is native to S. America – S. Argentina, S. Chile. It grows on the waste ground near the sea and at elevations up to 1300 metres.
Berberis empetrifolia is a heath barberry is a low (up to ½ m high and over 1 m wide in the wild) shrub. It is in leaf all year, in flower in May, and the seeds ripen from September to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects. The plant is self-fertile.
The mature twigs have a warm brown color, with 3-branched, flattened, light brown spines (1-1½ cm long) under each short side shoot. The thick, narrow leaves are semi-deciduous, linear in shape (1–2 cm long), somewhat bluish-green, with entire, rolled-under margins, and pointed, often purplish tips that may later die-down to a light brown. The flowers are radially symmetrical (about ½ cm), occur late in spring individually or in small umbels, are yolk yellow hinting towards orange. As in other Berberis species, the tepals are set in four whorls of three to five and equal in shape and color, so it is difficult to separate sepals from petals. The filament has a tooth on each side near its upper end, where the anther is attached. The fruit is a globose, blue-black berry of about 7 mm in diameter.
Prefers a warm moist loamy soil and light shade but it is by no means fastidious, succeeding in thin, dry and shallow soils. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Plants are hardy to about -15°c. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus. Plants can be pruned back quite severely, they resprout well from the base.
Edible Uses: The fruits of the Berberis empetrifolia is edible raw or cooked, and it can be used in jams after removing the seeds.
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.
Other Uses: A yellow dye is obtained from the root and bark. It is sometimes planted as an ornamental, and in good soil it can eventually exceed 1 m in height and 2 m wide
Known Hazards: The rest of the plant is poisonous.
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.