Berberries, or Barberries, the Herberts, L. a shrub better known by the name of Piperidge busk. There are three species of this plant, but one only is indigenous, namely, the vulgaris, or Common Berberry, which grows spontaneously in hedges in many parts of England and Scotland, and is frequently cultivated in gardens for its fruit, which makes a good pickle, and is used for garnishing dishes. It rises to the height of eight or ten feet, with many stalks, which have externally ; white bark, but yellow on the inside: the stalks and branches are thorny; the leaves are oval, and obtuse, with slightly serated edges ; the blossoms grow at the wings of the leaves, in small bunches, like those of the currant bulb : these are succeeded by oval fruit, which are at first green, but when ripe turn to a hue red colour. The flowers appear in May and June; and the fruit ripens in September.—See WiTH.3JO, and Engl. Hot. 49.
There are three varieties of this shrub, viz. the berberry, which bears a fruit without stones; the berberry with white fruit; and the eastern berberry, or that which produces a black and sweet fruit.
The first sort is generally propagated by suckers, but the method of planting by layers is preferable. The best time for laying down the brunches, is in autumn ; and the young shoots of the same year are most proper for this purpose. When this shrub is cultivated for its fruit, it should be planted singly, and not in hedges, as was formerly the practice; the suckers should be cut up every autumn, and the luxu-riant shoots pruned ; by this means the fruit will be more abundant, and of a better quality than that which grows wild. The third species should be planted in puts, and sheltered as soon as the young shoots are taken off, till the plants have acquired strength, when they may be removed to a warmer situation.
Berberries, on account of their astringent properties, have occasionally been prescribed in bilious diarrhoeas. The Egyptians used them in flaxes and malignant fe-vers, for abating heat, invigorating the body, and preventing putrefaction. For this purpose the fruit, according to Dr. LEWIS, should be macerated for twenty-four hours, in twelve times its weight of water, with the addition of a little fennel-seed ; the liquor, when strained, should be sweetened with sugar, or syrup of lemons, and given liberally as a drink. The dowers, when near, are offensive to the smell, but at a distance their odour is extreme-ly fragrant. An infusion of bark in white wine, is purgative. In distillation, the berries, when previously bruised, have been mixed with the grain to increase the quantity of spirituous liquors. The roots, boiled in ley, impart a yellow colour to wool; and in Poland, leather is tanned of a most beautiful yellow with the bark of the root. The inner bark also, with the addition of alum, has been employed for dyeing linen of a similar colour.
The effect of this shrub upon wheat lands is truly singular; and though well known to botanists, is hot familiar to every farmer. When growing in the. hedges near cornfields, it changes the ears to a dark brown colour. and prevents them from tilling; nay, its influence in this respect: has often extended across a field to the distance of three or four hundred yards : it should, therefore, be carefully eradicated from lands appropriated to tillage. It is eaten by cows, sheep, and goats, hut rejected by swine.