Herbs & Plants

Berberis chitria

Botanical Name: Berberis chitria
Family: Berberidaceae
Subfamily: Berberidoideae
Genus: Berberis
Species: Berberis chitria

Synonyms: Berberis chitria var. occidentalis Ahrendt.

Common Names:

Hindi :Chotar, Kashmal
Nepali : Chutro

Habitat: 1800 – 2700 metres in the Himalayas. Mainly in moist places at elevations of 2000 – 3000 metres in Nepal.

Berberis chitria is an erect, spiny, evergreen shrub that branches freely from the base; it can grow up to 5 metres tall. Stem and shoots terete, dark reddish-brown, finely pubescent to subglabrous; internodes 2.5-5 cm long; spines (1-) 3-fid, 1-2(-3) cm long. Leaves obovate to elliptic, 2-6(-10) cm long, 1.5-2.5 (-4) cm broad, dull to pale green, subsessile, finely reticulate, usually 3-9 spinulose at the margin, sometimes almost entire. Inflorescence (5-) 8-12(-17) cm long, 10-20-flowered, loosely corymbose-paniculate, with flowers usually in groups of three, including peduncle (1.5-)4-6(-8) cm long, drooping. Flowers 12-18 mm across, yellow, often tinged with red; pedicels 8-15 mm long, glabrous. Prophylls c. 1.5 mm long, appressed, at middle of pedicel or the base of flower. Sepals obovate, outer 6-7 mm long, inner 9-10 mm long, Petals 8-9 mm long, broadly elliptic, emarginate and subacute at the apex. Stamens 7 mm long, subapiculate at the apex. Ovules 4-5, with longer stipes. Berries dark red-brown, 10-12 mm long, 4-6 mm broad, narrowly ovoid or oblong-ellipsoid, epruinose, excluding 1-1.5 mm long style Flowers are bisexual, greenish yellow, about 15-20 mm across on elongated glabrous rachis, rachis about 9-11 cm long, pedicels about 10-18 mm long, bracts lanceolate or ovate, apex acute, about 2-4 mm long, prophylls about 1.5-1 mm long, sepals 6, in 2 series, outer series smallest and inner series largest, outer series 3, unequal, oblong to ovate. Flowering during May-June. The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine and a food.


Berberis chitria 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.
Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus.
There is much confusion in the naming of this species, it is frequently confused with Berberis aristata and it lacks a valid name. The name given above is liable to be changed.

Plants can be pruned back quite severely and resprouts 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.

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.
Cuttings of half-ripe wood, mid summer in a frame.
Cuttings of mature wood of the current season’s growth, preferably with a heel, autumn in a frame.

Edible Uses:
Fruits are edible,eaten – raw or cooked.The roasted seeds are pickled.

Medicinal Uses:
The juice of the bark is used to treat peptic ulcers. It is also boiled then filtered and used as eyedrops to treat various eye inflammations.

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 plant is traditionally grown in living fences in the northwestern Himalayas, where it helps to exclude livestock and other animals; mark out land boundaries; whilst also providing a range of medicinal and other uses. It is sometimes grown as an ornamental in gardens.
A yellow dye is obtained from the roots and stems. The wood is used for fuel.

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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