Berberis commonly known as barberry, is a large genus of deciduous and evergreen shrubs from 1–5 m tall, found throughout temperate and subtropical regions of the world. Many of the species have spines on the shoots and along the margins of the leaves.
Berberis has long shoots which form the structure of the plant, and short shoots only 1–2 mm long. The leaves on long shoots, developed into one to three or more spines 3 – 30 mm long. The bud in the axil of each thorn-leaf then develops a short shoot with several normal, leaves. These leaves are 1–10 cm long, simple, and either entire, or with spiny margins.
Many deciduous species are noted for their attractive pink or red autumn colour. Some horticultural variants of B. thunbergii have dark red to violet foliage.
The flowers are produced singly or in racemes of up to 20 on a single flower-head. They are yellow or orange, 3 – 6 mm) long. The fruit is a small berry 5 – 15 mm long, ripening red or dark blue, often with a pink or violet waxy surface bloom, which are edible if a little bitter in flavour.
Berberis is frequently host to stem rust which is a serious fungal disease of wheat and consequently the species is banned in USA, not seen often on the UK.
This bonsai is more forgiving than most other bonsai. However remember to harden off your barberry bonsai every winter, this will help leaf and eventual flower buds to form. Hardening means exposing them to frost conditions. Need for strong sunlight or the leaves will lose their bright colouring. Do not feed until the flowering season is over and then minimum feeding, preferably with a slow release feed.
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