Herbs & Plants

Berberis wilsoniae

Botanical Name: Berberis wilsoniae
Family: Berberidaceae
Reign: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Ranunculales
Kind: Berberis

Common Names: Wilson barberry

Habitat: Wilson’s berberis is native to China: Gansu, Hubei, Hunan, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Xizang, Yunnan. It is currently widely distributed in all countries with temperate climates.

Berberis wilsoniae is a small evergreen shrub hardly exceeding a meter in height, with arching branches and trifurcated thorns and never simple.It is in leaf all year. Its leaves are semi-evergreen. The flowers, in late spring (May-June), in clusters of 5 to 10, are yellow. Its fruits, pink berries, are ripe in October-November. The fruits are about 6mm long. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects. The plant is self-fertile.


Deciduous to semi-evergreen. 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. aggregata. The true species is seldom seen in cultivation, having been replaced with its hybrid progeny. There are some named forms, selected for their ornamental value. Plants can be pruned back quite severely, they resprout well from the base. This species is notably resistant to honey fungus. Heat Zone 9-4.

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[78], 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, July/August in a frame. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season’s growth, preferably with a heel, October/November in a frame.

Edible Uses:
Fruits are eaten -raw or cooked. Very acid with a lemon-like flavour, it goes very well in a muesli. Children and some adults like it raw, at least in small quantities, though most adults prefer to cook it and use it in pies, preserves etc.

Medicinal Uses:
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:
Berberis wilsoniae is grown as decorative plant in several places.They can be grown as a tall ground cover when planted about 60cm apart each way. A yellow dye is obtained from the root. A shrub for thorny barriers to deter unwanted visitors. Berries loved by birds.

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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