Seed of the Week: Japanese Barberry

Our mysterious brown seeds from last week came from a Japanese barberry, Berberis thunbergii.

The Japanese barberry is an ornamental shrub, often grown for its lovely fall color. Its leaves turn shades of red.

In the fall it is also covered with bright red berries.

The foliage is dense, forming a compact shrub that doesn’t require much pruning.

That is good, because the plant does have thorns.

Japanese barberry, as its name suggests, was originally from Japan/Asia. It was brought to the U.S. in the 1800s and is found growing throughout much of northern and eastern North America.

Recently the Japanese barberry has been added to invasive species lists because it has escaped cultivation in some areas and is replacing native plants.

There are a number of species in the genus Berberis. Some of them are native.

One species, the common barberry, Berberis vulgaris resembles the Japanese barberry except it has loose groupings of fruit rather than single fruit.

(Photograph by Steve Hurst @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)

The common barberry seeds are similar as well.

On a personal note, my parents have had a pair of Japanese barberries that have been at the front of their house for probably 60 years.

Do Japanese barberries grow where you live? Do you know how old they are?


  1. Michael

    yes theirs more of these growing at business places around where i live and where i live they are on the invasive list but i do still see more and more popping up at new businesses around here so they must not be that invasive for places to keep on planting them..

    and i found a good sized one with tons of fruit/berries so i took some to grow the seeds an have my own japanese barberry bush finally a little small bush sure can grow fast in 4 years and the fruits taste the best when they are ripe and not soggy when they are soggy they taste bitter and unripe is bitter to,,

    now i have tons of the red seeds but don’t know the right way to plant them should i put them in water or dirt to sprout out or should i let them sit in the dirt threw winter time i suppose i could try all 3 ways of doing this because i would like to have a barberry bush again,, and i like the japanese barberry bushes i like that they have thorns it’ll help keep the deer out of my garden,, if i could i would grow a native barberry bush but i haven’t found one yet i haven’t found any of these so called invasive ones yet either in the woods i only find them at businesses and around town i really don’t think there invasive i think people say that because they don’t like the plant because it grows thorns so they say its invasive… businesses can grow them so can i.

  2. Michael

    also if i’ve got hybrid seeds they may not even sprout out
    because i have had this problem so many times with hybrid
    plant seeds like hybrid green pepper plants make bad seeds
    that wont sprout out what the plant does is it’ll grow normal in all
    that and grow peppers and the seeds but the seeds will not
    sprout out thats from the pepper because its a hybrid hybrids
    are no good the people make the plants like this for a reason
    so we will have to come back each year and buy a new plant
    and im not going to this go’s for any hybrid plants there all
    no good.

  3. Michael

    i only need info on how to grow these Japanese barberry seeds or how to plant them i have planted apple seeds and osage-orange seeds and they grew so these should if i don’t get and help or info.

  4. Roberta

    You know, I think your idea that the seeds might be hybrid is likely, as that will cause problems. Have you thought about trying cuttings?

  5. Emily

    May I have permission to use one of your barberry photos as an example of what the berries look like? Sourced back to the blog, of course.

    Thank you!

  6. Roberta

    Of course. I’ll contact you privately.

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