Darwin's barberry

Common name:  Darwin's barberry
Scientific name:  Berberis darwinii
Management programme:  Site-led

Why is it a pest?

Darwin’s barberry (fun fact: yes, it is named after naturalist Charles Darwin) can invade a wide range of landscapes. When it does, it forms thick colonies and can grow more rapidly than native species under the right conditions, allowing it to dominate sites where it establishes. Darwin’s barberry will take over farmland, disturbed forest, canopy (upper layer of the forest), shrubland, tussockland, along roadsides and other lightly vegetated sites. This long-living plant tolerates moderate to cold temperatures, damp to dry conditions, high wind, salt, shade, damage, grazing and a range of soils. Birds and possibly possums eat the berries and spread the seeds through their droppings. Berries are also occasionally spread by soil and water movement.

What does it look like?

Darwin’s barberry is an evergreen (a plant that keeps green leaves throughout the year), spiny, yellow-wooded shrub (less than 4m tall) with woody and thickly hairy stems that have tough, 5-pronged, needle-sharp spines. It has hairless, glossy, dark green leaves that are usually spiny-serrated along the edges. It also has hanging clusters of deep orange-yellow flowers followed by oval purplish-black berries with a bluish-white surface.

When can I spot it best?

Darwin's barberry flowers from July to February, which can make it easier to spot.

What are the rules?

There are no rules for landowners in Otago regarding Darwin’s barberry. Under Otago’s pest plan, Darwin’s barberry is only classified as a pest in the site-led areas; Otago Peninsula, West Harbour/Mt Cargill, Quarantine Island and Goat Island.

The goal is to progressively contain Darwin’s barberry in these areas to prevent or improve on damage to the indigenous ecosystem values at these sites.

How will we achieve that?

ORC will take a lead role in supporting the goals of community groups and agencies in site-led areas in relation to Darwin’s barberry. This may be through advice, education, funding, service delivery or requiring other landowners undertake control when needed.

How can I control it?

  • Grub out small plants and leave on site to rot down
  • Cut and paste the stump near the ground using a suitable herbicide gel like Tordon BK containing either metsulfuron, triclopyr or glyphosate
  • Foliage spray when the plant is actively growing using triclopyr and Picloram and penetrant

Caution: When using any herbicide or pesticide PLEASE READ THE LABEL THOROUGHLY to ensure that all instructions and safety requirements are followed.

Disclaimer: Mention of product trade names does not endorse these products nor imply criticism of similar products not mentioned. The Otago Regional Council does not give any warranty that the information is accurate or complete or that it is suitable for all circumstances.

Management programme

Page last updated 26 June 2024.