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Dennis I Morris 2

Evergreen or deciduous shrubs or small trees, rarely perennial herbs. Leaves alternate or rarely opposite or basal, entire to pinnate or ternate; stipules small or absent. Inflorescence a panicle or raceme, or flowers solitary. Flowers bisexual. Perianth in 2–6 whorls, each of 3 segments; outer whorl smaller, sepaloid, inner with nectaries and sometimes regarded as petaloid staminodes. Stamens (4–)6(–18), usually opening by 2 valves hinged at the apex. Ovary unilocular, ovules 1-numerous; stigma sessile or on a short style. Fruit a berry or occasionally dry and dehiscent or indehiscent.

A family of about 16 genera and 550 species found in Eurasia, Africa and the Americas. Several species of Berberis L., Mahonia Nutt. and Epimedium L. are cultivated as ornamentals. 3 genera and 5 species are naturalised in Australia. The Berberidaceae are placed in the Ranunculales and are related to the Ranunculaceae (cosmopolitan) and Menispermaceae (mostly pantropical) (see Stevens 2007 & references cited therein).

Key reference: Morley (2007).

External resources: accepted names with synonymy & distribution in Australia (APC); author & publication abbreviations (IPNI); mapping (AVH, NVA); nomenclature (APNI, IPNI).

1. Leaves simple; branches spiny 1 Berberis
1: Leaves pinnate; branches spineless Mahonia +

+ Mahonia aquifolium (Pursh) Nutt. (native to North America) is naturalised in South Australia and New South Wales (including the A.C.T.), and sparingly naturalised in Victoria (see also Morley 2007). It has been collected along a road in the Tasmanian Central Highlands.


Berberis L., Sp. Pl. 1: 330 (1753).

Shrubs, evergreen or deciduous with yellow wood, usually with 3–5 partite axillary spines which are the modified basal leaves of long shoots. Leaves alternate, entire, margins often spiny. Inflorescence axillary, racemose, fasciculate or paniculate. Perianth segments in 4–5 whorls, the outer sepaloid, the inner petaloid with basal nectaries. Stamens 6. Fruit a few-seeded berry.

A genus of about 500 species in Europe, northern Africa, southern Asia and America. In Australia 2 or 3 species are occasionally naturalised.

1 * Berberis darwinii Hook., Hooker’s Icon. Pl. 7: t. 672 (1844)

Darwin’s Barberry

Thumbnail map of TasmaniaHamburger menu graphic to signify link to record data

Illustrations: Spencer, Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia 1: 71 (1997); Walsh, Fl. Victoria 3: 65, fig. 14a-d (1996); Harden, Fl. New South Wales 1, rev. edn: 168 (2000); Richardson et al., Weeds of the South-East, an Identification Guide for Australia 168 (2006); Morley, Fl. Australia 2 360, fig. 68e-I (2007).

Evergreen shrub to 4 m high, branches rusty-pubescent; axillary spines 5-lobed, pubescent, the lobes up to 5 mm long, not pungent. Leaves subsessile, in clusters of 3–7, obovate-cuneate, 1–4 cm long, 6–20 mm wide, leathery, adaxial surface shining, abaxial surface dull, margins thickened, apex with 3 pungent spines, margins entire or with 1–4 spine-tipped teeth on each side. Inflorescence a pendulous raceme, axis, bracts and pedicels reddish; pedicels 5–15 mm long. Outer perianth segments reddish, 2–4 mm long, ovate; inner segments, orange–yellow 4–7 mm long, obovate. Stamens slightly shorter than the innermost perianth segments. Berry purple-black, 6–9 mm long, ellipsoid, pruinose; fruiting style conspicuous. Flowering Sep.–Nov.; fruiting ?

Tas. (BEL, TSE, TWE); also naturalised in NSW, Vic.; native to Chile, Argentina. A garden ornamental that is occasionally naturalised on the foothills of Mt Wellington and from near Nabowla and Queenstown.


ALA (Atlas of Living Australia) http://www.ala.org.au/

APC (Australian Plant Census) https://biodiversity.org.au/nsl/services/apc

APNI (Australian Plant Name Index) https://biodiversity.org.au/nsl/services/apni

AVH (Australia’s Virtual Herbarium) (Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria) http://avh.chah.org.au/

IPNI (International Plant Name Index) http://www.ipni.org

Morley BD (2007) Berberidaceae (less Nandina). Flora of Australia 2 357–362.

NVA (Natural Values Atlas) (Department of Primary Industries and Water: Hobart) https://www.naturalvaluesatlas.tas.gov.au/

Stevens PF (2007) Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Version 7, May 2006. http://www.mobot.org/MOBOT/research/APweb

NOTE: Web addresses can and do change: a list of current web addresses is maintained in the web version of this treatment on the Flora of Tasmania Online website at https://flora.tmag.tas.gov.au/

  1. This work can be cited as: Morris DI (2009). Berberidaceae, version 2019:1. In MF de Salas (Ed.) Flora of Tasmania Online. 2 pp. (Tasmanian Herbarium, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery: Hobart). https://flora.tmag.tas.gov.au/vascular-families/berberidaceae/ (accessed ).  ↩︎

  2. Tasmanian Herbarium, Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery, PO Box 5058, UTAS LPO, Sandy Bay, TAS 7005, Australia.  ↩︎