Terrestrial invasive species


Most of these invasive plant factsheets are created from the booklet Minnesota invasive non-native terrestrial plants, an identification guide for resource managers.

Check the additional resources and herbicides table for more information.

Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii)



Appearance: Small, compact, spiny shrub, 3-6' tall with slightly curving branches.

Leaves: Small rounded untoothed, arranged in clusters above single spines, appear early in the spring.

Flowers: Yellow, single or in clusters of 2-4 blossoms; blooming in May.

Fruit: Bright red, egg-shaped small berries, in clusters or single, mature in August and stay on the shrub through winter.

Seeds: Dispersed by birds.


Roots: Spreads vegetatively through horizontal lower branches that root freely.

Ecological Threat:

  • It invades oak woodlands and oak savanna and prefers well-drained soils.
  • Once established its prolific spreading shades out native plants.
  • Japanese barberry was introduced to North America as ornamental as a living fence and for wildlife and erosion control.
  • Japanese barberry is a MDA Specially Regulated Plant in Minnesota.
    • These cultivars average greater than 600 seeds per plant and will begin a three-year phase-out period in Minnesota beginning January 1, 2015:
      ‘Angel Wings’; ‘Antares’; var. atropurpurea; ‘Bailtwo’ (Burgundy Carousel® - ‘Monomb’ (Cherry Bomb™); ‘Crimson Velvet’; ‘Erecta’; ‘Gold Ring’; ‘Bailsel’ (Golden Carousel® - B. koreana × B. thunbergii hybrid); ‘Inermis’; ‘Bailgreen’ (Jade Carousel®); ‘JN Redleaf’ (Ruby Jewel™); ‘JN Variegated’ (Stardust™); ‘Kelleris’; ‘Kobold’; ‘Anderson’ (Lustre Green™); ‘Marshall Upright’; ‘Painter’s Palette’; ‘Pow Wow’; ‘Red Rocket’; ‘Rose Glow’; ‘Bailone’ (Ruby Carousel®); ‘Silver Mile’; ‘Sparkle’; ‘Tara’ (Emerald Carousel® - B. koreana × B. thunbergii hybrid); Wild Type (parent species – green barberry)
    • At the end of the phase-out period (December 31, 2017), these species will become Restricted Noxious Weeds in Minnesota and will be illegal to sell and propagate.


Control Methods:

  • Mechanical
    • Prescribed fire effectively kills the plant
    • Regular mowing of resprouts after initial removal
    • Pulling plants in small infestations
  • Chemical
    • Cut-stump treatment with glyphosate; cut-stump or basal bark spray treatment around the stem with triclopyr.


Native Substitutes:

Additional Resources