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Barberry in my woods!

Posted by mollyjenning z6CT (My Page) on
Fri, May 4, 07 at 15:11

Barberry has been coming up out of nowhere along a stream in the woods---in wet soil. I have never grown the stuff in the garden, however it has been my understanding that it grows in dry soil.

Is there a special barberry that likes wet soil? Where is this coming from?

(The plants that were previously in this area have been eaten by the deer, and the terrible barberry has filled in the empty space).

I am planning on pruning it to the ground. Would this be a good strategy?

Many thanks!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Barberry in my woods!

Lots of plants appreciate a good stream bank even if they are fine in dry soil in the garden.

Where did it come from? The birds, probably.

Prune it to the ground? Probably better to dig it up. Pruning it to the ground won't kill it.

RE: Barberry in my woods!


The Barberry was probably introduced by birds.. It can rapidly take over areas that have been cleared by deer (or people). I've found that it isn't terribly difficult to pull out, especially if the ground is wet. Just be sure to use heavy-duty gloves. Once it's out of the ground there's not much chance of it spreading, unlike garlic mustard or knotweed, so there's no need to bag it. There's a lot of information on barberry here:


RE: Barberry in my woods!

Josh, many thanks for the link. Why in the world do the deer eat all the nice native stuff and leave us with all the invasive stuff???

I feel much more confident now that I can manage this particular plant...the others are so difficult.

Thanks again, Molly

RE: Barberry in my woods!

Moly said: Why in the world do the deer eat all the nice native stuff and leave us with all the invasive stuff???

I think you've hit on the reason a lot of these non-native plants become "invasive" pests when introduced in the wild. The animals in our ecosystem, like deer, have evolved over time to digest the native plants that grow in the areas they inhabit. When an aggressive, non-native plant like garlic mustard, barberry, or knotweed is introduced, it can take over an area because none of the native animals (or micro-organisms) eat it.

Granted, it's just a theory and I'm no biologist. I guess this would explain why the deep pick through my woodland garden and eat all my jack in the pulpit, while wandering right by the garlic mustard.

We have a lot of Japanese barberry along the fringes of our wooded areas. I pull it out when I can, but I've purposely left one clump. I don't have the heart to pull it out since it's home to two Carolina Wrens who use it for cover. Does anyone have any suggestions for a native plant that has a similar growth habit?


RE: Barberry in my woods!

When young (or pruned to stay low), sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum) can be quite dense.

Also you can create brush piles in out of the way places for cover.

Here is a link that might be useful: Brush piles 101

RE: Barberry in my woods!

Your Carolina Wrens will be just as happy with a brush pile as they are with the barberry. It is hard to find a native shrub that is as dense as Japanese Barberry when grown in the woods.

By the way, around here Japanese Barberry tends to grow in moist soil more than in dry soils.

RE: Barberry in my woods!

Thank you both for your suggestions. I have already created a large brush pile off in another part of our yard. I used the thousands of knotweed plants I pulled last year. The bamboo-like shoots make a great brush pile. This spring the pile is inhabited by rabbits- the first we've seen in several years in our area.

The barberry in question is right on the edge of the woods near our bird feeders, so a brush pile wouldn't be very attractive. I've got a viburnum hedge growing in, but it will take a while to provide enough cover. The suggestion of Vaccinium aboreum is very interesting, but I don't know that it would survive up in zone 5. I'll keep looking for replacements for now.

Thanks again!


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