Botanical Name: Berberis rariflora
Common Names: Barberry
Habitat: Berberis rariflora is native to S. America – Bolivia around La Paz. it is a plant of high elevations in the tropical regions of Bolivia, usually found at elevations in excess of 3,000 metres.
Species in this genus generally prefer a warm moist loamy soil and light shade but they are by no means fastidious, succeeding in thin, dry and shallow soils. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus.
Berberis rariflora is a spiny, erect, evergreen shrub that can grow up to 3 metres tall.The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects. The plant is self-fertile.
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.
Propagation: Through Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe. Seed from over-ripe fruit will take longer to germinate, whilst stored seed may require cold stratification. 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 until large enough to plant out.
Cuttings of half-ripe wood in a frame.
Cuttings of mature wood of the current season’s growth, preferably with a heel, in a frame
Edible Uses: Fruits are edible – eaten raw or cooked. It makes a refreshing drink also.
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.
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.