Ontario Trees & Shrubs website

European Barberry
Berberis vulgaris

European Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) Other common names: Common Barberry

French names: Épine-vinette commune

Family: Barberry Family (Berberidaceae)

Group: Barberries

Distinctive features: Shrub; Yellowish wood. Sharp 3-pronged spines. Obovate leaves. Fruits in bunches hanging down.

Similar species:
  •   Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) - very similar.

  •   American Barberry (Berberis canadensis) - not in Ontario.


Flowers: Summer;  Yellow;  6 parts (petals);  Small, yellow, in drooping clusters.

Leaves: Alternate, Simple, Toothed;  Obovate leaves. Prominently spiny-toothed.

Height: 2-3 m (6-9 ft)

Trunk: Wood is yellowish inside.

Fruit/Seeds: In bunches hanging down.

Habitat: Forests, Fields and Open Areas;  Roadsides, fields, open areas, woods, thickets.

Books: Newcomb's Wildflower Guide: 354   

Native/Non-native: Non-native

Status: Common, alien, invasive.

Notes: European Barberry is an alien escapee from gardens.

Origin and Meaning of Names:
 Scientific Name: vulgaris: common (Latin)


See Also:
  •   Invaders: Barberry and Winged Euonymus, from The Monday Garden, by Sue Sweeney


Photographs: 55 photographs available, of which 15 are featured on this page. SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTOGRAPHS.

Range Map is at the bottom of the page

European Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)

Typical European Barberry leaves.

European Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)

Upper surface of a European Barberry leaf. Note the prominent teeth.

European Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)

Underside of a leaf.

European Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)

Here is a branch showing the leaf arrangement. The leaves are almost in a whorled configuration.

European Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)

The underside of the same branch.

European Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)

The typical shape and form of this shrub.

European Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)

Closeup of bark. Also a few thorns are visible. The thorns are usually in clumps of three. And they are wickedly sharp!

European Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)

Barberries have yellow pith.

European Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)

A European Barberry shrub. Note the upright tree-like growth. Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) doesn't grow like this.

European Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)

New fruit of the current year (July).

European Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)

European Barberry fruit. The red fruit are left over from the previous year.

European Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)

A European Barberry shrub. Note the upright tree-like growth. Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) doesn't grow like this.

European Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)

European Barberry flowers in June.

European Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)

The flowers hang in clusters.

European Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)

European Barberry in the winter.


Range map for European Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)

PLEASE NOTE: A coloured Province or State means this species occurs somewhere in that Province/State.
The entire Province/State is coloured, regardless of where in that Province/State it occurs.

(Range map provided courtesy of the USDA website and is displayed here in accordance with their Policies)