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Vascular Plants of California
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Berberis fremontii

Higher Taxonomy
Family: BerberidaceaeView DescriptionDichotomous Key
Habit: Perennial herb, shrub, [tree], generally rhizomed, caudexed or not, glabrous, glaucous, or hairy. Stem: spreading to erect, branched or not. Leaf: simple, 1--3-ternate, or pinnately compound, basal and cauline, generally alternate, deciduous or evergreen, petioled, stipuled. Inflorescence: generally raceme, spike, or panicle, scapose, terminal, or axillary. Flower: generally bisexual, radial; sepals 6--18 or 0, generally in whorls of 3; petals generally 6, in 2 whorls of 3, or 0; stamens 6--12(13), free or fused at base, in 2 whorls or not, anthers dehiscent by flap-like valves or longitudinal slits; ovary superior, chamber 1, ovules generally 1--10, style 1 or 0, stigma flat or spheric. Fruit: berry, capsule, achene [follicle].
Genera In Family: 16 genera, +- 670 species: temperate, tropics worldwide; some cultivated (Berberis, Epimedium, Nandina (heavenly bamboo), Vancouveria). Note: Lower sepals sometimes called "bracteoles," inner petals "staminodes".
eFlora Treatment Author: Michael P. Williams
Scientific Editor: Thomas J. Rosatti.
Genus: BerberisView DescriptionDichotomous Key

Habit: 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.
Etymology: (Latin: ancient Arabic name for barberry) Toxicity: Roots often TOXIC: spines may inject fungal spores into skin. Note: Contact with filament causes stamen to snap inward, possibly to deposit pollen on pollinator.
Reference: Kim 2004 J Pl Res 117:175--182
Unabridged Reference: Moran 1982 Phytologia 52:221--226, for relationship between Berberis, Mahonia.
Berberis fremontii Torr.
Stem: erect, 0.1--4(5) m; bud scales < 5 mm, generally deciduous. Leaf: 3--6 cm, crowded on short lateral stems; petiole < 1 cm; leaflets 3--7(9), terminal 1.5--2.5 cm, 1--1.5 cm wide, generally lance-ovate, wavy, generally folded along midrib, base truncate to wedge-shaped, tip generally acute, margin +- lobed, spines 3--8 per side, 2--3 mm. Inflorescence: 4--5.5 cm, open; axis internodes 2--10 mm, 5--10 mm in fruit; flowers 8--12. Fruit: 6--15 mm diam, +- spheric, glaucous, yellow- to purple-red. Seed: 3--4 mm.
Ecology: Rocky slopes, pinyon/juniper woodland, chaparral; Elevation: 900--1850 m. Bioregional Distribution: PR, e&s DMoj; Distribution Outside California: to Colorado, New Mexico, Mexico. Flowering Time: Mar--May Note: Intergrades with Berberis haematocarpa, especially in eastern DMoj; overlaps morphologically with Berberis higginsiae in PR, Baja California. Larval exit holes suggest fruit inflation may be due to parasitism by insects.
Synonyms: Mahonia fremontii (Torr.) Fedde
Jepson eFlora Author: Michael P. Williams
Reference: Kim 2004 J Pl Res 117:175--182
Index of California Plant Names (ICPN; linked via the Jepson Online Interchange)
Listed on CNPS Rare Plant Inventory

Previous taxon: Berberis darwinii
Next taxon: Berberis haematocarpa

Botanical illustration including Berberis fremontiibotanical illustration including Berberis fremontii

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Citation for this treatment: Michael P. Williams 2012, Berberis fremontii, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on July 14, 2024.

Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2024, Jepson eFlora,, accessed on July 14, 2024.

Berberis fremontii
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©2004 James M. Andre
Berberis fremontii
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©2006 James M. Andre
Berberis fremontii
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©2016 Keir Morse
Berberis fremontii
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©2016 Keir Morse
Berberis fremontii
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©2006 James M. Andre

More photos of Berberis fremontii
in CalPhotos

Geographic subdivisions for Berberis fremontii:
PR, e&s DMoj
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map of distribution 1

(Note: any qualifiers in the taxon distribution description, such as 'northern', 'southern', 'adjacent' etc., are not reflected in the map above, and in some cases indication of a taxon in a subdivision is based on a single collection or author-verified occurrence).


Data provided by the participants of the  Consortium of California Herbaria.

View all CCH records
All markers link to CCH specimen records. The original determination is shown in the popup window.
Blue markers indicate specimens that map to one of the expected Jepson geographic subdivisions (see left map). Purple markers indicate specimens collected from a garden, greenhouse, or other non-wild location.
Yellow markers indicate records that may provide evidence for eFlora range revision or may have georeferencing or identification issues.

CCH collections by month Flowering-Fruiting Monthly Counts

Duplicates counted once; synonyms included.
Species do not include records of infraspecific taxa, if there are more than 1 infraspecific taxon in CA.
Blue line denotes eFlora flowering time (fruiting time in some monocot genera).