Invasive Species -


Japanese Barberry
(Berberis thunbergii DC)

Photos & Description courtesy of IPANE

What Japanese Barberry does to the habitat

An erstwhile ornamental that has escaped the garden, Japanese barberry now forms acres of impenetrable monocultures in the forest, along roadways and the edges of suburban property, excluding native wildflowers, herbaceous plants, and new trees.

It reduces the litter layer on the soil making it more vulnerable to erosion and the loss of nutrients. It alters soil pH and Nitrogen contents making it less hospitable to native trees and plants.

But more important to Connecticut residents is that Japanese barberry is a principal host for the tick that causes Lyme disease.

Connecticut’s top researchers at the Agricultural Experiment Station proved in field tests that there are up to 7 times more deer ticks on property that has barberry compared to land without.

Eliminating barberry helps to dramatically reduce the threat of Lyme disease.



Japanese barberry should be eradicated when you find it. There are several methods for you to choose from. One is to cut with pruning loppers or bush saw the shrub to 4-5 inch stubs (Many weed whackers have saw attachments that will do the job.)

After the cut you can do one of three things. Using a wand you could put a dab of tinted glyphosate (Round Up) on the end of each cut stem, tinted so you can see where you have been.

Or you wrench the roots out with a pick. If you do pull it out of the ground, be sure to replace the soil shaken out of the roots and make the site look like its surroundings.
You could also use a propane flame thrower to cook the roots to a bright orange to make sure it does not return. You could also flame the entire bush, but that is more time consuming and expensive.

Special hardware called Red Dragon has been made for this very purpose, but check with the state meteorologist to make sure conditions are safe to use the burner that day.


Then turn your attention to planting native replacements.


Common Name

Full Scientific Name

Japanese barberry Berberis thunbergii DC

Family Name Common

Family Scientific Name

Barberry family Berberis thunbergii



Botanical Glossary

Berberis thunbergii is a dense deciduous shrub 0.5-2.4 m (2-8 ft.) tall. It flowers from mid April to May in the Northeast and its fruits mature from July to October. The branches are glabrous, deeply grooved, brown and have usually simple spines. The leaves are glaucescent underneath, spatulate or narrowly obovate in shape, and are 1.3-3.8 cm (0.5-1.5 in.) long. They range in color from slightly bluish-green to green to dark reddish purple. The pale yellow flowers of Berberis thunbergii are profuse and located along the entire length of the stem. The inflorescences are umbellate with the 8 mm (0.3 in.) long flowers in clusters of 2-4. Bright red berries 7-9 mm (0.28-0.35in.) in length are elliptic or nearly globose in form. The fruits are slightly juicy but solid, and persist on the stems until the following spring.

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