The deciduous species (e.g. Berberis thunbergii, B. vulgaris) are noted for good autumn colour, the leaves turning pink or red before falling. In some evergreen species from China (e.g. B. candidula, B. verruculosa), the leaves are brilliant white beneath, making them particularly attractive.
The flowers are produced singly or in racemes of up to 20 on a single flower-head. They are yellow or orange, 3-6 mm long, with six sepals and six petals in alternating whorls of three, the sepals usually coloured like the petals. The fruit is a small berry 5-15 mm long, ripening red or dark blue, often with a pink or violet waxy surface bloom; they may be either long and narrow (like a bar, hence 'barberry') or in other species, spherical.
Several are popular garden shrubs, grown for their ornamental leaves, yellow flowers, and red or blue-black berries. They are also valued for crime prevention; being very dense, viciously spiny shrubs, they make very effective barriers impenetrable to burglars. For this reason they are often planted below potentially vulnerable windows, and used as hedges and other barriers.
Historically, yellow dye was extracted from the stem, root, and bark.
Berberis vulgaris (European barberry) is the alternate host species of the wheat rust Puccinia graminis, a serious fungal disease of wheat. For this reason, cultivation of this species is prohibited in many areas.
Some Berberis have become invasive species when planted outside of their native ranges, including B. glaucocarpa and B. darwinii in New Zealand (where it is now banned from sale and propagation), and B. thunbergii in some parts of North America.
Berberis is often used in borsch as a spice. Throughout the former Soviet Union, they are also used as the flavouring in a popular candy of the same name. In Kazakhstan the dried fruits are used to add flavour to a traditional dish Plov (lamb with rice).
Berberis buxifolia (Calafate) and Berberis darwinii (Michay) are two species found in Patagonia in Argentina and Chile. Their edible purple fruits are used for jams and infusions; anyone who tries a berry is said to be certain to return to Patagonia. The calafate and michay are symbols of Patagonia.
Zereshk is widely used in cooking, imparting a tart flavor to chicken dishes. It is usually cooked with rice, called zereshk polo, and provides a nice meal with chicken. Zereshk jam photo, zereshk juice photo, and zereshk fruit rolls photo are also produced in Iran.
In colloquial Persian, zereshk is used as a term for showing dissent or disagreement, similar to the usage of "blowing a raspberry" in English. Although not a vulgar term in that context, it is not used in polite speech.
|Europe & Asia, deciduous ||Europe & Asia, evergreen ||North America, deciduous |