Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii)

japanese barberry


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.

Similar species: Similar in appearance to common barberry which is a MDA Prohibited Noxious Weed on the Control List.

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.
  • There are Japanese barberry cultivars that are MDA Restricted Noxious Weeds in Minnesota.
    • These cultivars average greater than 600 seeds per plant and cannot be sold in Minnesota:
      ‘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)


Control Methods:


  • Prescribed fire effectively kills the plant
  • Regular mowing of resprouts after initial removal
  • Pulling plants in small infestations


  • Cut-stump treatment with glyphosate; cut-stump or basal bark spray treatment around the stem with triclopyr.


Native Substitutes:

Additional Resources