Barberry and Ticks
Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is an invasive plant native to Asia. Common Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) is native to Europe and Asia. Barberry can invade forests, meadows, wetlands, and dunes.
These were introduced in this country as ornamental plants and now have invaded our natural areas. The barberry’s dense foliage shades out native wildflowers and tree seedlings, while creating a humid environment that is ideal for tick development. It also creates safe nesting area for mice, protecting them from predators. The mice are an important food source for the developing ticks.
Barberry left untreated causes significant environmental damage that includes:
Increased tick populations on properties that have barberry.
Loss of native plants that wildlife depend on for food and cover.
Increased run-off and soil erosion.
Reduced water quality due to increased run-off.
Decreased recreational value of land, as barberry is prickly to
An additional problem with the common barberry is that it is a
host for wheat rust disease.
How to spot barberry
Barberry are most easily noticed in spring when their leaves are emerging, because they leaf out before most other shrubs.
The Japanese barberry shrub tends to be rounded, while the common barberry is a tall arching shrub. Both can have leaves from green to purplish red, and you will see a red berry ripen in autumn. When the plants are dormant, you can identify them by their needle like thorns. The common barberry has a three-part spine, instead of a single-spine like the Japanese barberry.
Options for removing barberry
You can pull the barberry out when the ground is soft. Be sure to wear gloves when hand pulling because of the needle like thorns. Some over the counter chemicals may cause damage to adjacent trees that may have roots under the treated area, follow all label instructions. If in doubt, contact a Registered Arborist.
James Scarlata is a Forest Ecologist and
Registered Consulting Arborist #407