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BERBERIS darwinii

Image of Berberis darwinii

John Rickard

Family

Berberidaceae

Botanical Name

BERBERIS darwinii

Plant Common Name

Darwin's Barberry

General Description

One of the most beautiful and exotic of the barberries, Darwin's barberry is distinguished by pendulous clusters of golden orange flowers that bloom profusely in spring. It is native to the alpine regions of Chile, Argentina and Patagonia where it thrives in moist open woodlands. The rounded shrub becomes quite large, may develop arching branches, and has prickly evergreen leaves. Edible purplish black barberries are produced in summer. They are tart, seedy and can be used to make jam. There is evidence to show the fruits were eaten by the earliest human inhabitants of southwestern South America.

Evergreen leaves that are small, fine and barbed with prickles much like holly leaves densely line the thick branches of Darwin's barberry. Plentiful pendulous flower clusters appear in spring. Each small rose-like flower is golden with highlights of bright orange or orangish red. Bees are drawn to the flowers and lots of round berries that turn from waxy green to purplish black follow. They are usually ripe by midsummer. Birds relish the fruits, which are also fine for human consumption.

Darwin's barberry can be grown in sun where weather is cool and mild. Otherwise it is best grown in partial shade. Provide fertile, well-drained soil on the acid side and protect from sites with drying wind. This is an ideal specimen shrub for a woodland border or shaded foundation planting. It can also be planted as a hedge.

Fungal disease can cause branches to die back. Prune out unhealthy branches in spring being sure to sterilize pruners between cuts. Selective spring pruning can also be implemented to shape the plant.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    8 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    7 - 8

  • Sunset Zone

    5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Shrub

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    8'-11' / 2.4m - 3.4m

  • Width

    7'-10' / 2.1m - 3.0m

  • Bloom Time

    Spring

  • Native To

    South America, Argentina, Chile

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Orange, Gold, Orange Red

  • Flower Color Modifier

    Bicolor

  • Fruit Color

    Dark Blue, Plum

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Dark Green

  • Bark Color

    Sandy Brown, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Fine

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Alpine, Foundation, Hedges, Mixed Border, Screening / Wind Break, Topiary / Bonsai / Espalier

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes