Herbs & Plants

Berberis koreana

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

Common Names: Korean Barberry, Barberry

Habitat : Berberis koreana is native to E. Asia – Korea. It is hedgerows, ledges and montibus.

Berberis koreana is a deciduous Shrub growing to 1.5 m (5ft) at a medium rate. The leaf margins are dentate and have inflorescences in racemes on reddish branchlets. The leaves are simple, alternating, are either elliptical or oval shape and are dark to medium-green in color. They show pinnate venation with smooth edges that are 1–3 inches (2.5–7.6 cm) in length. The leaves have leaf stalks.

It is in flower from May to June. The flowers of Berberis koreana are approximately 0.2 inches (5.1 mm) in length, appear in clusters, and are yellow in color when they bloom in the spring. B. koreana has 0.2–0.3 inches (5.1–7.6 mm) egg-shaped, red to purple berries in the fall and winter months. The flower has six yellow sepals, six stamens and six petals that can be yellow to dark orange-red. B. koreana has 1-10 seeds that are tan to red-brown or black. The fruit is fleshy

The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects. The plant is self-fertile.


Berberis koreana is a very hardy plant, tolerating winter temperatures occasionally falling down to about -30°c.
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 can be pruned back quite severely, they resprout well from the base. Very stoloniferous, plants produce suckers freely.

A very ornamental plant, it is closely related to B. Vulgaris. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus.The flowers are produced late in spring, thereby escaping spring frosts. 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 resistant to the disease.

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.

Edible Uses:
Fruits are eaten – raw or cooked. The fruits are about 5mm long. Young leaves are cooked and eaten.

Medicinal Uses:
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.

Other Uses:
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.

Known Hazards:
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.


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