Berberis aquifolium

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Berberis aquifolium (Pursh) Nutt.


Life form: shrub
Usage: ornamental plant

Exposure: shade   5

Moisture: moist

Soil: sandy loam

Arrangement: alternate
Leaves: evergreen

Shape: ovate

Division: imparipinnate

Shape: six-stellate
Fruit: berry

3A / f8da21 

Inflorescence: raceme

Petals: not specified
Habit: not specified

Growth form: not specified



Berberis aquifolium is a shrub.


Berberis aquifolium was described by Frederick Traugott Pursh in 1813. The name is considered as validly published.


Berberis aquifolium is a species in the genus Berberis which contains approximately 595 to 798 species and belongs to the family of the Berberidaceae (Barberry Family). The type species of the genus is Berberis vulgaris.



The comparatively long-lived shrubs have a semi-erect habit and reach heights of 1 to 1,5 metres. The main growing season is in spring and summer. The plants reach a width of 0.8 to 1 metres.

Wood and Bark

The bark is smooth and grey.


Berberis aquifolium is evergreen. The dark-green, imparipinnate leaves are alternate. The leaflets are ovate and have spiny margins. The surface of the leaves is glabrous.

Flowers and Fruits

Berberis aquifolium produces racemes of showy, yellow six-stellate flowers from April to May. The plants flower on last years shoots. They are hermaphroditic, pollination takes places by allogamy through animals.

In summer the shrubs produce only few ornamental, edible blue berries that are persistent on the plant.

Root System

The plants produce rhizomes which give rise to vegetative spread.


Berberis aquifolium is native to the Himalaya and Southwest China.


The shrubs prefer a shady situation on moist soil. The substrate should be sandy-loamy and comparatively rich with a pH between 5 and 8. The plants need a soil depth of at least 51 centimetres for good growth. They tolerate temperatures down to -29°C (USDA zone 5) and need a frost-free period of at least 24 weeks.

Classification after Prof. Dr. Sieber

  • open areas
  • woodland borders (soil usually rich in humus)

Tolerance of special soil conditions

  • none: soil salinity, anaerobic soil
  • low: calcareous soil
  • high: drought, city climate


The ornamental value of Berberis aquifolium lies especially in the attractive autumn aspect and its fragrance. The recommended planting distance is 90 to 150 centimetres, the shrubs are best planted in groups of more than 15. Suited for rooftop gardens, free-growing low hedges, medium-high, free-growing hedges and for shrub borders, as well as suited as cemetery plant, groundcover, container plant, greenery along roads, bee pasture, bird pasture and as plant providing shelter for birds.

Maintenance and Propagation

  • Remove withered flowers if no fruit set is desired.
  • Lightly cut back all shoots after flowering.

Propagate by sowing in autumn or by semi-ripe cuttings in early autumn.


Pests and Diseases

Brown, orange or yellowish pustules on shoots and on the leaves lower surfaces are very likely caused by a fungal infestation (rust). Remove affected parts and apply fungicide. Also improve ventilation and reduce humidity.

Scale insects that sit on the undersides of the leaves and excrete honeydew can be controlled with insecticide or biologically with parasitic wasps.

Honeydew and sooty mould indicate an infestation with whiteflies. The larvae look like those of mealy bugs, the adults suck sap on the undersides of the leaves. Apply insecticide, under glass control biologically.


  • Walter Erhardt, Erich Götz, Nils Bödeker, Siegmund Seybold: Der große Zander. Eugen Ulmer KG, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-8001-5406-7. (Ger.)
  • Christoper Brickell (Editor-in-chief): RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. Third edition. Dorling Kindersley, London 2003, ISBN 0-7513-3738-2.

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