March 2022: Japanese Barberry

In previous March posts, we’ve talked about Planting for Queens (what shrubs are perfect for early foragers, particularly awakening female bumble bees), and we’ve talked about Baby Animals in Spring (the commonly found babies born in spring and what to do if you find one!). This month, let’s focus on an invasive found in many ornamental gardens.

Japanese barberry in its natural state tends to grow in long-stemmed clumps.

Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) turns green earlier than a lot of native plants. If you look into a wooded expanse in late March and early April, you may see a low scattering of greenery. If you observe up close, you might find bushes with long stems, tiny leaves, and prickly spines. Congrats, you’ve found Japanese Barberry!

The spines are sharp!

Look to your own gardens and hedges as well! During the 1970s and 80s, Japanese barberry became a popular plant in the yard, and is still sold at many nurseries.

Garden varieties can appear in other colors aside from green.

Instead of letting this invasive proliferate, cut it to the ground. It may send up a few shoots again next year, but cut it again, and it will no longer mar your landscape. It out-competes native plants and provides little in the way of ecosystem services for our local wildlife. Wear long gloves when trimming it down; this shrub fights back!

If you’re interested in replacing your Japanese barberry, try plants like inkberry (Ilex glabra), bayberry (Myrica pennsylvanica), ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius), or winterberry (Ilex verticillata).

Wondering where you can buy native plants?

Here are two Connecticut nurseries:

Earth Tones Native Nursery, Woodbury, CT

Native: A Native Plant Nursery, Fairfield, CT

Live in New York? Check out these nurseries:

Catskill Native Nursery, Kerhonksen, NY

Long Island Natives, Eastport, NY

Want to be part of the Pollinator Pathway? Check out this website: