Berberis darwinii

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Berberis darwinii
Berberis darwinii shoot.jpg
Foliage and flowers
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Berberidaceae
Genus: Berberis
Species: B. darwinii
Binomial name
Berberis darwinii
  • Berberis costulata Gand.
  • Berberis darwinii var. magellanica Ahrendt
  • Berberis knightii (Lindl.) K.Koch
  • Mahonia knightii Lindl.

Berberis darwinii is a species of barberry in the family Berberidaceae,[3] native to southern Chile and Argentina and naturalized elsewhere. English common names include 'Darwin's Barberry'. Vernacular names include michay, calafate, and quelung.[4]


It is an evergreen thorny shrub growing to 3–4 m tall, with dense branches from ground level. The leaves are small oval, 12–25 mm long and 5–12 mm broad, with a spiny margin; they are borne in clusters of 2–5 together, subtended by a three-branched spine 2–4 mm long. The flowers are orange, 4–5 mm long, produced in dense racemes 2–7 cm long in spring. The fruit is a small purple-black berry 4–7 mm diameter, ripening in summer.

B. darwinii was discovered (in Western science) in South America in 1835 by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the 'Beagle'; however, the berries of this species were consumed by prehistoric native peoples[5] in the Patagonian region over millennia. The species was one of many named in honour of Darwin.[6]

It is a popular garden and hedging shrub in the British Isles. The Royal Horticultural Society has given the species its Award of Garden Merit.[7] The edible fruit is very acidic.

Invasive species[edit]

B. darwinii is regarded as an invasive plant pest in New Zealand[8] that escaped from gardens into indigenous plant communities via its bird-dispersed seeds.[9] It is considered a serious threat to indigenous ecosystems throughout New Zealand[10] and is listed on the National Pest Plant Accord. In Australia, the species is naturalised in the states of South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania.[11] The species has also become sparingly naturalized in the US states of California and Oregon.[12] It is often planted and sometimes naturalized in Ireland.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tropicos - Name - Berberis darwinii Hook.". 
  2. ^ "Berberis darwinii Hook. — The Plant List". 
  3. ^ Chilebosque: Berberis darwinii [1] Retrieved Aug. 2008
  4. ^ Berberis darwinii at Flora Chilena  (in Spanish)
  5. ^ C.Michael Hogan (2008) Cueva del Milodon, The Megalithic Portal, ed. A. Burnham [2]
  6. ^ New York Academy of Sciences, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Published by The Academy, 1909
  7. ^ "Berberis darwinii". 
  8. ^ Darwin's barberry Archived October 14, 2008, at the Wayback Machine., Containment pest plants, Greater Wellington Regional Council website, retrieved 12 January 2009.
  9. ^ Darwin’s barberry, DOC's weed work, Department of Conservation website, retrieved 4 January 2011.
  10. ^ Seedling Recruitment of the Invasive Species Berberis Darwinii (Darwin's Barberry): What Contributes to Invasion Success?, McAlpine, Katherine (Kate) Grace, 2005, Victoria University of Wellington doctoral thesis, retrieved 12 January 2009.
  11. ^ "Berberis darwinii". Australian Plant Name Index (APNI), IBIS database. Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian Government, Canberra. Retrieved 20 March 2012. 
  12. ^ "Berberis darwinii in Flora of North America". 
  13. ^ Parnell, J. and Curtis, T. 2012.Webb's An Irish Flora. Cork University Press. ISBN 978-185918-4783