This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
Our knowledge of this plant begins with recent times. It is an occupant of the Warm Temperate Zone, occurring in Europe, temperate Asia, N. Africa, and has been introduced into the United States. It is absent from S. Somerset, S. Hants, Hunts, occurring onlv in Gla-morgan in S. Wales, Denbigh, Carnarvon, and Flint in N. Wales, S. Lanes in the Trent province; but it does not occur in Mid Lanes or the Isle of Man, though present throughout the W. Lowlands, except Wigtown, and Haddington in the E. Lowlands; in Elgin and Easter-ness only in the E. Highlands. Elsewhere it is found in Westerness, Clyde Isles, and Cantire in the W. Highlands, from Caithness south-wards. It is naturalized in Scotland. It occurs in Ireland.
1 On account possibly of its prevalence along the highways and in hedges.
Although widely dispersed throughout the whole of the British Isles, the Barberry as a shrub, and one indeed which yields delicious fruits for tarts, is probably in half of these introduced, and wherever it is found in the hedgerow this must usually be the case, for our hedges are quite modern.
The Barberry occurs in copses and woods, and may in such localities be native. As a host-plant for the smut attacking wheat its dis-tribution has been affected by an Act of Parliament restricting its occurrence.
This is an erect, smooth-stemmed fruit tree or shrub, which tends to grow out in an arching manner after a certain distance, giving the boughs an overhanging nature above. The stem is yellow and angled. It bears numerous pointed spines or modified leaves, which are divided into three, or seven, with axillary buds bearing leaves. The leaves are inversely egg-shaped, toothed, alternate or in clusters.
The clusters or racemes of yellow flowers hang down in a drooping manner. In fruit it may be recognized by their long scarlet character.
It is 8-10 ft. high, flowers from April to May, and is perennial.
The flowers are horizontal or inclined obliquely downwards. They are thus not fully protected from the weather. The 3 inner sepals and 6 petals are curled inwards at the tips, and protect the 6 stamens and 12 honey-glands from the rain. The 3 inner sepals are conspicuous, the yellow petals quite embrace the stamens, while the latter are undisturbed. The honey-glands are at the base of the petals, thick and oval bodies of orange colour, which are close to the inner side and base of the petal.
The anther-stalks touch below, and before being touched bend back and touch the portions of the petals below the honey-glands and adjacent halves of the latter. The honey collects in the angles between the stamens and ovary just where the proboscis is thrust in, and the stamens when touched, being sensitive, spring forward towards the pistil and dust the side of the bee's head with pollen.
Photo. Flatters & Garnett - Barberry (berberis Vulgaris, L.)
The stigma is covered with wart-like knobs along its edge sur-rounding the base of the ovary, and owing to the openness of the flower one side of the insect's head opposite that touched by the stamen brushes it when it goes on to the next flower, and cross-pollination thus follows. In the same flower the bee plunges its head first to one side and then to the other, and self-pollination follows. Diptera, Syrphidae, Muscidae, Hymenoptera (Apidae, Vespidae), Coleop-tera (Dermestidae, Coccinellidae) visit it. The irritable stamens secure dusting of the insect, and cross-pollination, by driving the bee, which is startled by their recoil, away to another flower, an observation noted by Linnaeus.
The fruit is dispersed by the agency of animals. It is edible, juicy, and the seeds are dispersed by animals. Being red it is attractive to birds. As the seeds have a hard testa and endosperm they are uninjured by digestion.
Barberry is partly a humus-loving plant, requiring a humus soil, but is also a sand-lover, subsisting on a sand soil, and grows best in a mixture of the two or peaty loam.
Puccinia graminis, an orange cluster-cups, grows on the leaves and shoots of the Barberry. The second stage of the fungus forms the well-known rust of wheat and other cereals, Aecidium berberidis. Microsphcera berberidis is parasitic on Barberry also.
The Hymenoptera, Hylotoma berberidis, H euodis, the Lepidoptera, Beautiful Brocade, Hadena contigua, Mottled Pug, Eupithecia exiguata, Exapate selatella, Gelechia Montfetella, the Homoptera, Lecanium per-sicce, Rhopalisiphura berberidis, the flies, Rhagoletis cerasi, Spilographa alternata, visit it.
Berberis, a name given by Brunfels, is mediaeval Latin of uncertain origin.
Barberry is called Barbaryn, Barberry, Barboranne, Berber, Guild, Jaundice Berry, Maiden Barberry, Pepper-ridge, Piperidge, Piprage, Woodsour, Woodsore, Woodsower Tree, Piperidge Rilts.
In allusion to the name Jaundice Berry, Ellis, in Modern Husbandmen, 1750, p. 157, says: "The wood of this tree is said to be such an antidote against the Yellow Jaundice that, if a person constantly feeds himself with a spoon made of it, it will prevent and cure this disease while it is in its infancy."
The name Guild refers to the yellow bark; the name Jaundice Berry, again, refers to the so-called remedy, by " Doctrine of Signatures ", that the yellow bark was a cure for jaundice, and it was taken in ale for this purpose, being purgative.
The scarlet berries were eaten for stomachic disorders, and they contain malic acid, which in France is manufactured from them. They make also a jelly, which is very delicious.
There is tannin in the bark, and in Poland it was used for tannins leather. Morocco leather, linen, and cloth are dyed from a dye made from Barberrv. It is used as an ornamental shrub in gardens.
The berries are too acid for birds as a rule, but though bitter are not unpleasant. They are put in sweetmeats. It is astringent as a medicine, and has been used in bilious complaints.
Essential Specific Characters: 15. Berberis vulgaris, L. - Shrub, woody, spinose, leaves 3-fid spines, racemes pendulous, single or fascicled, yellow, sepals 6, deciduous, imbricate, petals 6 with 2 glands at base, fruit a berry, 2-seeded.