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Key to families | Table of families and genera

Specimen numbers are hyperlinked to records in the Consortium of California Herbaria data view where possible. Taxa are hyperlinked to entries in the Jepson Interchange via the "[Online Interchange]" link.


Shrub, generally rhizomed. Stem: spreading to erect, branched, spiny or not, vine-like or not; inner bark, wood generally bright yellow; over-wintering bud scales deciduous or not. Leaf: simple or pinnately compound, cauline, alternate, generally leathery, generally persistent; leaflets generally 3–11, ± round to lanceolate, generally spine-toothed. Inflorescence: raceme, axillary or terminal. Flower: sepals 9 in 3 whorls of 3; petals 6 in 2 whorls of 3, bases generally glandular; stamens 6; ovules 2–9, stigma ± spheric. Fruit: berry, spheric to elliptic, generally purple-black.
± 600 species: temperate worldwide. (Latin: ancient Arabic name for barberry) Roots often TOXIC: spines may inject fungal spores into skin. [Kim 2004 J Plant Res 117:175–182] Contact with filament causes stamen to snap inward, possibly to deposit pollen on pollinator.
Unabridged references: [Moran 1982 Phytologia 52:221–226, for relationship between Berberis, Mahonia.]

Key to Berberis

1. Leaves simple

2. Leaves evergreen, with 6–8 coarse, generally terminal spines; petals orange ..... B. darwinii

2' Leaves deciduous, with >> 8, small, marginal spines; petals yellow ..... B. vulgaris

1' Leaves compound

3. Bud scales persistent among upper leaves, 15–45 mm, thick, lanceolate; leaflets ± palmately veined ..... B. nervosa

3' Bud scales generally deciduous, < 5 mm, thin, ovate to deltate; leaflets generally pinnately veined

4. Inflorescence open, flowers generally < 10; petiole generally < 2 cm; terminal leaflets generally lanceolate, oblong, or narrowly elliptic — Southwestern California, D

5. Leaflets generally 3, terminal sessile ..... B. harrisoniana

5' Leaflets 3–9, terminal stalked

6. Leaflets flat to ± wavy, not folded along midrib, serrate, spines generally > 8 per side, ± 1 mm ..... B. nevinii

6' Leaflets wavy, generally folded along midrib, ± lobed, spines generally 3–8 per side, 1–4 mm

7. Terminal leaflet generally < 2 × width; berries yellow-red when fresh, ± glaucous, not inflated ..... B. higginsiae

7' Terminal leaflet generally > 2 × width; berries blue-black when fresh, heavily glaucous, not inflated or inflated only due to insect parasitism

8. Terminal leaflet generally lance-ovate, length generally < 3 × width; flowers 8–12; fruit yellow- to purple-red ..... B. fremontii

8' Terminal leaflet generally narrow-lanceolate, length generally > 3 × width; flowers 3–5; fruit red-brown to dark purple ..... B. haematocarpa

4' Inflorescence dense, flowers > 10; petiole generally > 2 cm (0–3 cm in Berberis pinnata); terminal leaflets generally ovate to wide-elliptic

9. Leaflet margin strongly wavy, thick, generally hard, spines 6–10(12) per side, 2–5 mm ..... B. aquifolium var. dictyota

9' Leaflet margin wavy to flat, ± thin, not hard, spines generally > 10 per side (to 0 in Berberis pinnata), 1–2 mm

10. Petioles generally > 3 cm; leaflets generally 5–9

11. Stems ascending to erect, generally 1–2 m; leaflets generally shiny adaxially ..... B. aquifolium var. aquifolium

11' Stems spreading to erect, generally < 0.8 m; leaflets generally dull adaxially ..... B. aquifolium var. repens

10' Petioles generally 1–3 cm; leaflets generally 7–11 ..... B. pinnata

12. Leaflet margins generally flat, spines generally < 1 mm; upper stems reclining to weakly erect; plant 2–4 m ..... subsp. insularis

12' Leaflet margins generally wavy, spines generally > 1 mm; upper stems generally erect; plant generally < 2 m ..... subsp. pinnata


Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) [year] Jepson eFlora, [accessed on month, day, year]
Citation for an individual treatment: [Author of taxon treatment] [year]. [Taxon name] in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, [URL for treatment]. Accessed on [month, day, year].
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