Kentucky Nature Preserves Rare Plants

Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission

American Barberry
Berberis canadensis
Family: Berberidaceae

Protection Status:
State Status:  E
USFWS Status: {null}

Global Rank: G3
State Rank: S1

Limestone woodlands.

Species Description:
Small Shrub.

Flowering Period: Early May to late May.

Additional Information at NatureServe

Diagnostic Characteristics:
A sparsely branched shrub, 0.3-2 m tall with forked or 3-pronged spines on its branches. Branchlets are brown, purple or reddish and rough-warty. The leaves are generally obovate, 2-6 cm long, with non-distinct veinlets below, margins with up to 20 teeth. The 5-10 flowers are in racemes up to 2-6 cm long. Flower petals are yellow, notched, 2.5-3.5 mm long with basal glands. The calyx is 8-11 mm wide with inner sepals 3-4 mm long. Fruits are ovoid, fleshy, red berries, 5-7 mm long. (Gleason and Cronquist 1991). Berberis canadensis may be distinguished from the similar B. vulgaris and B. thunbergii by the character of its leaf margins. Berberis canadensis possesses serrulate leaves, while those of B. vulgaris are finely spinulose-denticulate and those of B. thunbergii are entire (Fernald 1970, Gleason 1952). Berberis is a low spiny shrub with yellow flowers and red fruit.

Disturbance such as ATV trails, timber removal or any activity that results in increased erosion and weed invasion will be detrimental. Berberis canadensis (and the majority of barberries) is an alternate host for the black stem rust of wheat, oats, rye barley, and various wild and cultivated grasses (Weakley 1993, Steffey 1985, Rudolf 1974, Steyermark 1963). The U.S. Department of Agriculture and state agriculture offices initiated a comprehensive barberry eradication program in the past to elimiate black stem rust. As a result, numerous populations of this species were destroyed (Weakley 1993, Wiegman 1993, Homoya 1992, Steyermark 1963).

Global Range:
Southeast United States: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, with scattered, disjunct remnant populations in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Missouri. Considered extirpated from Alabama.

Known Kentucky Occurrences:

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Data last updated: Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission
801 Teton Trail
Frankfort,KY 40601
Phone: (502) 573-2886
Fax: (502) 573-2355
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