Berberis vulgaris - L.
European Barberry
Other English Common Names: Common Barberry
Other Common Names: common barberry
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Berberis vulgaris L. (TSN 18837)
French Common Names: Úpine-vinette commune
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.138856
Element Code: PDBER02050
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Barberry Family
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Ranunculales Berberidaceae Berberis
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Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Berberis vulgaris
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: GNR
Global Status Last Changed: 22Mar1994
Rounded Global Status: GNR - Not Yet Ranked
Nation: United States
National Status: NNA
Nation: Canada
National Status: NNA (11Oct2016)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Colorado (SNA), Connecticut (SNA), Delaware (SNA), Idaho (SNA), Illinois (SNA), Indiana (SNA), Iowa (SNA), Kansas (SNA), Maine (SNA), Maryland (SNA), Massachusetts (SNR), Michigan (SNA), Minnesota (SNA), Missouri (SNA), Montana (SNA), Nebraska (SNA), New Hampshire (SNA), New Jersey (SNA), New York (SNA), North Carolina (SNA), North Dakota (SNA), Ohio (SNA), Pennsylvania (SNA), Rhode Island (SNA), South Dakota (SNA), Vermont (SNA), Virginia (SNA), Washington (SNA), West Virginia (SNA), Wisconsin (SNA)
Canada Alberta (SNA), British Columbia (SNA), Manitoba (SNA), New Brunswick (SNA), Nova Scotia (SNA), Ontario (SNA), Prince Edward Island (SNA), Quebec (SNA)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The distribution shown may be incomplete, particularly for some rapidly spreading exotic species.

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States COexotic, CTexotic, DEexotic, IAexotic, IDexotic, ILexotic, INexotic, KSexotic, MA, MDexotic, MEexotic, MIexotic, MNexotic, MOexotic, MTexotic, NCexotic, NDexotic, NEexotic, NHexotic, NJexotic, NYexotic, OHexotic, PAexotic, RIexotic, SDexotic, VAexotic, VTexotic, WAexotic, WIexotic, WVexotic
Canada ABexotic, BCexotic, MBexotic, NBexotic, NSexotic, ONexotic, PEexotic, QCexotic

Range Map
No map available.

Ecology & Life History Not yet assessed
Economic Attributes
Economic Uses: MEDICINE/DRUG
Management Summary Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank)
Disclaimer: While I-Rank information is available over NatureServe Explorer, NatureServe is not actively developing or maintaining these data. Species with I-RANKs do not represent a random sample of species exotic in the United States; available assessments may be biased toward those species with higher-than-average impact.

I-Rank: Medium/Low
Rounded I-Rank: Medium
I-Rank Reasons Summary: Berberis vulgaris is a formerly widely cultivated and widely naturalized species that is still widespread, but thanks to intense eradication efforts, is now only sporadically and locally abundant. Where it does persist in abundance, it can crowd out native understory species. Although found in many disturbed sites, it can also invade fairly intact native ecosystems, especially open woodlands, coastal areas, and other open areas such as shrub wetlands.
Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium/Low
Subrank II - Current Distribution/Abundance: Medium
Subrank III - Trend in Distribution/Abundance: Low
Subrank IV - Management Difficulty: Insignificant
I-Rank Review Date: 18Nov2005
Evaluator: Maybury, K.
Native anywhere in the U.S?
Native Range: Europe (FNA 1997).

Download "An Invasive Species Assessment Protocol: Evaluating Non-Native Plants for their Impact on Biodiversity". (PDF, 1.03MB)
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Screening Questions

S-1. Established outside cultivation as a non-native? YES

S-2. Present in conservation areas or other native species habitat? Yes

Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium/Low

1. Impact on Ecosystem Processes and System-wide Parameters:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: No indication of alterations in abiotic processes found in the literature for this species, although Kourtev et al. (2003) found that a related species, Berberis thunbergii, may cause higher nitrate concentrations, as well as changes in the soil microbial community.

2. Impact on Ecological Community Structure:Low significance
Comments: Although more upright and tree-like than Berberis thunbergii (Dirr 1990), it is similar to that species in replacing plants in native understory layers, but probably not changing the number of layers or overall vegetation structure that much.

3. Impact on Ecological Community Composition:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Where allowed to become abundant, this speices, like B. thunbergii, can crowd out native understory plants (Piscataquog Watershed Association 2005).

4. Impact on Individual Native Plant or Animal Species:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Berberis vulgaris is known as a host for Puccinia graminis, a rust disease. This fungus has several physiological races that can infect several genera of grasses, including native grasses (University of Nebraska-Lincoln 2003). Primarily known as a disease of wheat and other (non-native) cereal grains, the disease requires two hosts to complete its life cycle. The primary host is wheat and B. vulgaris is the most widely distributed alternate host in the U.S. (University of Nebraska-Lincoln 2003). Native barberry (B. canadensis) and other natives can also serve as hosts, however (FNA 1997), so the level of impact on native grasses is difficult to assess. (The fact that B. vulgaris is no longer the "common barberry" of the northcentral and northeastern U.S. is largely due to major early 20th century eradication efforts by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and to a prohibition on the sale of seeds and plants in many states [Muencher 1955, IPANE 2004]. These measures were taken to to minimize impacts on cereal crop production.)

5. Conservation Significance of the Communities and Native Species Threatened:Moderate significance
Comments: Although often found in disturbed habitats (roadsides, pastures, etc.), this species also invades open coastal forests, shrub wetlands, and coastal grasslands (IPANE 2004).

Subrank II. Current Distribution and Abundance: Medium

6. Current Range Size in Nation:High significance
Comments: Per map in Kartesz (1999) found throughout New England south to North Carolina, throughout much of the midwest south to Kansas and Missouri, and in several western states. Not known from Alaska or from most of the southern half of the lower 48.

7. Proportion of Current Range Where the Species is Negatively Impacting Biodiversity:Low significance
Comments: Eradicated in some areas and not very abundant in most others; only locally abundant, especially in areas of coastal New England (IPANE 2004). However, when this species was frequently cultivated it became widely naturalized in eastern North America (FNA 1997), suggesting that it could once again impact large areas.

8. Proportion of Nation's Biogeographic Units Invaded:Moderate significance

9. Diversity of Habitats or Ecological Systems Invaded in Nation:Moderate significance
Comments: Open forests, coastal grasslands, some wetlands (IPANE 2004).

Subrank III. Trend in Distribution and Abundance: Low

10. Current Trend in Total Range within Nation:Low significance
Comments: Inferred: there are many restrictions on the sale of plants and seeds and the species is no longer cultivated. It seems to persist locally but may not be spreading.

11. Proportion of Potential Range Currently Occupied:Insignificant
Comments: Inferred: the current generalized range is similar to B. thunbergii, which (unfortunately) was considered to be a good substitute for B. vulgaris in cultivation (IPANE 2004).

12. Long-distance Dispersal Potential within Nation:Moderate significance
Comments: Fruits are largely bird dispersed (CIPWG 2001, IPANE 2004).

13. Local Range Expansion or Change in Abundance:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: Inferred.

14. Inherent Ability to Invade Conservation Areas and Other Native Species Habitats:Moderate significance
Comments: When this species was frequently cultivated it became widely naturalized in eastern North America (FNA 1997). Like B. thunbergii, it is primarily known from disturbed areas, but can invade forests, at least open forests (IPANE 2004).

15. Similar Habitats Invaded Elsewhere:Low significance
Comments: Escaped and naturalized in Canada but in similar habitats to those invaded in the U.S.

16. Reproductive Characteristics:Insignificant
Comments: Prolific seed producer (CIPWG 2001) but no other notably aggressive traits.

Subrank IV. General Management Difficulty: Insignificant

17. General Management Difficulty:Low significance
Comments: Control methods are the same as for B. thunbergii (IPANE 2004): handpulling and digging up all roots so that they don't resprout (CIPWG 2001, Czarapata 2005). Herbicide applied in early spring when most other plants have not leafed-out is effective; CIPWG (2001) suggests that for such early season treatments, triclopyr is usually more effective than glyphosate.

18. Minimum Time Commitment:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: Resprouts; mowing will not erradicate the plant.

19. Impacts of Management on Native Species:Insignificant
Comments: Relatively low impact assuming any herbicide application is targeted.

20. Accessibility of Invaded Areas:Medium/Low significance

Other Considerations: Could once again become a more signficant weed if allowed to spread. Hybridizes with the invasive plant Berberis thunbergii.

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group (CIPWG). 2001. Invasive Plant Management Guide. Updated January 2001. Available: Accessed 2005.

  • Czarapata, E. J. 2005. Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest. The University of Wisconsin Press. Madison, WI. 215 pp.

  • Deam, C. C. 1940. Flora of Indiana. Division of Forestry, Dept. of Conservation, Indianapolis, Indiana. 1236 pp.

  • Dirr, M.A. 1990. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. Stipes Publishing Company, Champaign, Illinois. 1007 pp.

  • Douglas, G.W., G.D. Straley, D. Meidinger, and J. Pojar, eds. 1998. Illustrated Flora of British Columbia, Vol. 2, Dicotyledons (Balsaminaceae through Cucurbitaceae). B.C. Minist. Environ., Lands and Parks, and B.C. Minist. For. Res. Program. 401pp.

  • Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 1997. Flora of North America north of Mexico. Vol. 3. Magnoliophyta: Magnoliidae and Hamamelidae. Oxford Univ. Press, New York. xxiii + 590 pp.

  • Herbarium, Department of Botany, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

  • Herbarium, Museum of Man and Nature, 190 Rupert Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

  • Invasive Plant Atlas of New England. 2004. Berberis vulgaris. Available: Accessed 2005.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1996. Species distribution data at state and province level for vascular plant taxa of the United States, Canada, and Greenland (accepted records), from unpublished data files at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, December, 1996.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist and atlas with biological attributes for the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. First edition. In: Kartesz, J.T., and C.A. Meacham. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, N.C.

  • Kourtev, P. S., J. G. Ehrenfeld, and M. Haggblom. 2003. Experimental analysis of the effect of exotic and native plant species on the structure and function of soil microbial communities. Soil Biology and Biotchemistry 35: 895-905.

  • Montgomery, F.H. 1957. The introduced plants of Ontario growing outside of cultivation (Part II). Transactions of the Royal Canadian Institute, No. 66, Vol. XXXII, Part 1. 35 pp.

  • Muenscher, W. C. 1955. Weeds. The MacMillan Co., New York.

  • Piscataquog Watershed Association. 2005. Identifying and Controlling Non-native Invasive Plants. Available: Website revised 09/26/2005. Accessed 2005.

  • Scoggan, H.J. 1957. Flora of Manitoba. National Museum of Canada, Bulletin number 140.

  • Scoggan, H.J. 1978. The Flora of Canada. National Museum of Natural Sciences, National Museum of Canada, Publ. in Botany 7(4).

  • University of Nebraska-LIncoln. 2003. Department of Plant Pathology Disease Descriptions. Available: . Accessed 2005.

  • Weber, W. A. and R. C. Wittmann. 1992. Catalog of The Colorado Flora: A Biodiversity Baseline. University Press of Colorado, Niwot, CO.

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