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Book cover - Common Weeds of New ZealandAn Illustrated Guide to
Common Weeds
of New Zealand


Berberis glaucocarpa


Berberis glaucocarpa - barberryReproduced from
Common Weeds of New Zealand
by Ian Popay, Paul Champion & Trevor James
ISBN 0 473 09760 5
by kind permission of the
New Zealand Plant Protection Society

Publication or other use of images or descriptive text on these pages is unauthorised unless written permission is obtained from the authors and publisher.
Appropriate acknowledgement of the publication Common Weeds of New Zealand must always be given.

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Spiny, woody, evergreen or semi-deciduous shrub often 2-3 m tall, sometimes used as a hedge plant. Characterised by its very sharp spines that are single or divided into three. Small yellow flowers followed by small purple berries covered in a white bloom.

  • Flowers Petals and sepals yellow, flowers 5-7 mm in diameter, with an unpleasant smell. In many-flowered drooping simple or compound inflorescences up to 6 cm long. Flowers Oct-Nov.
  • Fruit Small, purplish, oblong berries, 7-12 mm long, with a white bloom. Seeds are dispersed by birds.
  • Leaves Elliptical to ovate, up to 7.5 cm long by 2.5 cm wide and often spiny-toothed.
  • Stems The main stems have yellowish-grey bark and very sharp, single or three-pronged thorns, up to 2 cm long, in the leaf axils.

Berberis glaucocarpa - barberryHabitat

Waste places, reverting hill country, scrub, forest margins and former house sites.


Locally common in some higher rainfall lowland areas in NI and the northern half of SI. Originally from the western Himalayas.


Planted as a hedge in many parts of NZ, and has spread out of control in many areas, especially on broken or hilly ground where control is difficult and intense stock grazing (for controlling seedlings) is harder to achieve. Barberry is subject to Pest Plant Management Strategies in several regions of NZ. Details are available from the regional councils or unitary authorities.

Related species

Darwin's barberry (Berberis darwinii) is an evergreen shrub up to 4 m tall, with attractive, deep orange flowers in simple drooping racemes up to 7 cm long and dark purple berries with a bluish-white bloom. The small, shiny dark green holly-like leaves alternate in clusters of three to five, together with five-pronged, needle-sharp spines. This species flowers Jan-Dec, and is found in scrub, forest and plantation margins, road-sides, being locally common in Wellington and Wairarapa in NI and very common from central Canterbury to Southland in SI and Stewart Island. Listed on the National Pest Plant Accord (see Introduction for details). European barberry (Berberis vulgaris) occurs around old homesteads and in some plantations, in inland Canterbury and Otago. It is a deciduous shrub up to 2 m high, losing its leaves in winter, and with oblong, red fruits.

Derivation of botanical name

Berberis (from the Arabic) = barberry; glaucocarpa (Lat.) = fruit with a bloom.


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Web-notes: Weed Links

On this site

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External Links

WeedbustersWeedbusters New Zealand
Weedbusters is a weeds awareness and education programme that aims to protect New Zealand's environment from the increasing weed problem.
A free tool to assist farmers and agricultural professionals in decision-making regarding weed and pest identification, biology, impact and management.
Weed keyNew Zealand Weeds Key
An interactive identification key to the weeds of New Zealand. Developed at Landcare Research.

New Zealand Plant Conservation Network naturalised plants
Search for information on more than 2500 naturalised and weedy plants.
NZ Plant Protection SocietyNew Zealand Plant Protection Society
Their main objective: "To pool and exchange information on the biology of weeds, invertebrate and vertebrate pests, pathogens and beneficial organisms and methods for modifying their effects."
Massey UniversityMassey University Weeds Database
A site providing information about New Zealand weeds and weed control. It has a series of pages showing pictures of New Zealand weeds, notes on identification and control. It also provides information on a university paper entitled Controlling Weeds.

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Last updated: March 1, 2021