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Japanese barberry is a small deciduous shrub from 2-8 ft. (0.6-2.4 m) tall. The thin, grooved branches have thin, straight spines. The leaves are up to 1 in. (24 mm) long and wedge-shaped. The pale-yellow flowers occur in drooping clusters of 2-5 and develop in mid-spring to early summer. The berries ripen to a bright red color and are 1/4-1/3 in. (7-10 mm) long.
Japanese barberry invades a variety of habitats from shaded woodlands to open fields and wetlands. It is very shade-tolerant and can form dense stands which shade out and displace native species. Japanese barberry is rapidly spread by birds that eat the berries thus dispersing the seeds. It is native to Asia and was first introduced into The United States in 1864 as an ornamental.
Ecological Impact: Japanese barberry is commonly planted as an ornamental, as well as for wildlife food and erosion control. Since the fruits are often eaten by birds that subsequently
disperse the seeds, the species has easily naturalized. Barberry suppresses the growth of native herbs. It can survive and grow under a broad range of light and soil moisture conditions, from 1-100% full sun and from 10-40+ % soil moisture content. Under high light conditions, removal of barberry is followed by rapid growth of other species. Under low light conditions, response to removal is much slower.
For more information please visit Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group.