Family, Barberry. Color, yellow. Leaves, alternate, bristly toothed, inversely ovate, in tufts, springing from the axils of branched spines. From the center of the rosette of leaves drooping racemes of flowers spring. Sepals and petals, 6. Bractlets below the sepals. Stamens, 6. Pistil, 1. Fruit, a long, acid berry, containing one or two hard seeds. They are often preserved, and make a refreshing drink. May and June.
The stamens are curiously sensitive. Kolreuter was the first to discover the fact that when the filaments are touched the anthers bend toward the pistil and come in contact with its stigma, straightening up again soon after. This phenomenon is best seen in dry weather. It is a device to secure cross-pollination, a visit from an insect causing the anthers to shed their pollen upon its body, to be borne to another flower. The barberry is supposed to be injurious to wheat, being invested with a mildew (Aecidium berberidis), which in a different form becomes the rust (Uredo) of wheat. A law in Massachusetts once compelled farmers who cultivate wheat to cut down all barberry bushes near their fields. To those not interested in wheat cultivation, the yellow racemes of flowers and scarlet fruit of the barberry make it a welcome attendant of our drives, found, as it is, in exposed situations bordering woods and fields. Its range is throughout New England, as far north as Canada and Newfoundland. It keeps near the coast, in gravelly soil. Shrub 5 to 8 feet high, with grayish bark. It has been planted with success for hedges. It is used to tan leather and for a yellow dye
American Barberry B. canadensis. - Color, yellow. Leaves, wavy-margined, toothed, not so bristly as the last. Flowers, in racemes, few, with petals notched at apex. June.
A shrub or small tree found in swamps of Virginia and southward.