Berberis is a genus of about 450-500 species of deciduous and evergreen barberry shrubs from 1-5 m tall with thorny shoots, native to the temperate and subtropical regions of Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and South America.
The Berberis species is usually called barberry. Barberry plants are woody, deciduous shrubs and named for its sharp "barbs" or thorns that it has, along with the berries it produces in the fall.
The genus is characterized by dimorphic shoots, with long shoots which form the structure of the plant, and short shoots only 1-2 mm long.
The leaves on long shoots are non-photosynthetic, developed into three-spined thorns 3-30 mm long; the bud in the axil of each thorn-leaf then develops a short shoot with several normal, photosynthetic leaves. These leaves are 1-10 cm long, simple, and either entire, or with spiny margins.
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, with six sepals and six petals in alternating whorls of three, the sepals usually colored like the petals. The fruit is a small berry 5-15 mm long, ripening red or dark blue, often with a pink or violet waxy surface bloom; they may be either long and narrow or in other species, spherical. Barberry shrubs have ornamental yellow flowers in the spring that are usually fragrant. The flowers dangle below the stem in pretty, tear-drop like fashion.
Barberry shrub foliage is usually fine textured with small, oval shaped leaves. The foliage is highly attractive and depending on the berberis cultivar, bright green, burgundy and variegated options are all available.