Botanical Name: Berberis fendleri
Species: B. fendleri
Common Names: Colorado barberry
Habitat: Berberis fendleri is native to south-western N. America – Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. It grows on the slopes and canyon bottoms at elevations of 1300 – 2700 metres.
Berberis fendleri is a spiny, erect, deciduous shrub, much-branched from the base; it can grow up to 2 m (7 feet) tall, and has simple deciduous leaves up to 4.6 cm (1.8 inches) long. It is in flower in May. Flowers are borne in racemes of up to 15 flowers, each producing a red, juicy, oblong fruit up to 8 mm long. The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food.
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. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus.
Plants can be pruned back quite severely, they resprout well from the base.
Some Berberis species (especially Berberis vulgaris) harbour the black stem-rust fungus (Puccinia graminis Persoon). This is a major disease of wheat and barley crops and can spread from infected barberries to the grain crop. The sale or transport of susceptible or untested species of Berberis is illegal in the United States and Canada. This species has been found to be susceptible to the disease.
Fruits are eaten – raw or cooked. The fruits are about 5mm long.
The alkaloid berberine, which is universally present in the roots and stems 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 in combination with Glycyrrhiza species (Liquorice) because this nullifies the effects of the berberine.
Berberine has also shown antitumour activity.
The roots and stems 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[
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.
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.