Family:     Berberidaceae (barberry family)

Duration:  Perennial

Height:     up to 1.8 m (up to 6 ft)

Blooming: May


Japanese Barberry

Berberis thunbergii DC.

Stems: deeply grooved with one spine at each node.  Stems are reddish, brown turning gray with age.

Flowers: clusters of one to four small, six-parted, cream or yellow flowers which bloom in the spring. The dangle as they entice pollinators to visit. 

Leaves: small oval-shaped or spooned leaves clustered above a spine alternately arranged along the stem. The leaves have no teeth or lobes.

Fruit: present from mid-summer into winter turning from dull yellowish-green to bright red.

Sun: full sun to shade

Ideal Conditions: moist shaded areas

Season Change: foliage often becomes orange to dark reddish-purple in fall/winter.


An invasive plant in Northwest Indiana that has become a standard shrub in local garden centers distribution.  It is a thorny (actually spines which are modified leaves) shrub with grooved stems. An increase of Japanese barberry also correlates to an increase of deer ticks and thus, Lyme's disease. Many of the cultivars that are purple or red do not fruit often and are not as big of an invasive threat; however, more purple colored barberry is appearing in woodlands.

all photos by Nathanael Pilla

Species Present and Exotic
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Michigan City, IN., 46360 

The mission of Save the Dunes is to preserve, protect and restore the Indiana dunes and all natural resources in Northwest Indiana’s Lake Michigan Watershed for an enhanced quality of life.

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