Botanical Name: Berberis amurensis
Species: B. amurensis
*Berberis amurensis f. bretschneideri (Rehder) Ohwi
*Berberis amurensis var. brevifolia Nakai
**Berberis amurensis f. brevifolia (Nakai) Ohwi
*Berberis amurensis var. japonica (Regel) Rehder
Common Names: Amur barberry
Habitat: Berberis amurensis is native to native to Japan, Korea, the Russian Far East, and parts of China (Gansu, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Henan, Jilin, Liaoning, Nei Mongol, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi). It is named for the Amur River, which forms part of the boundary between Russia and China. It grows on the thickets, sparse forests, valleys, forest margins, streamsides, sides of rocks; at elevations from 1,100 – 2,900 metres
Berberis amurensis is a shrub. It grows up to 350 cm tall with spines up to 20 mm long on the smaller branches. Leaves are elliptical, paper-thin, up to 10 cm long. Flowers are borne in groups of up to 25. Berries are red, oblong, about 10 mm long and 6mm wide.
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.
This species is closely allied to Berberis vulgaris, it hybridizes freely with other members of the genus.
Plants can be pruned back quite severely and will 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.
Through 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 edible. They are cooked. A sharp, acid flavour. Used in preserves and confections.
The root is antirheumatic.
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 wood 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.