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In Bloom

Berberis darwinii Berberidaceae
 

Berberis darwinii by Joanne Taylor

 

When Charles Darwin explored Chile between 1832 and 1835 during his voyages aboard the Beagle, he collected 248 different vascular plants. One of these lucky plants was Berberis darwinii, named after him by Sir William Hooker, the director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew from 1841 until 1865.

It is obvious why Darwin would have collected this plant on his expedition when he had such limited space to securely transport his collections back home. This very showy evergreen shrub offers beauty and interest year round. Its small glossy leaves are reminiscent of holly leaves, and they thickly cover the branches. The shrub has a fountain-like habit, with branches spilling out in large arches. In early spring, the plant erupts with color as electric orange flowers begin to bloom. The flowers so densely cover the shrub that it becomes difficult to see the foliage behind them! After flowering, the flowers fall and the fruit begins to ripen in their place. Because this plant can self-pollinate, it has a consistent bounty of fruit. Soon, the shrub is covered in small, dark blue-purple berries that are very popular amongst the birds in the garden. The berries are also edible to humans, having a slightly acidic flavor that lessens as the berry ripens. Take care however, because not only are the leaves sharply serrated, but the branches are also covered in small spines.

Before Darwin discovered this plant and introduced it to the West, it was already well known in its native habitat. It is native to southern Chile and Argentina, where it is most commonly known as "michay". In addition to the berries being edible, the plant is also frequently used for its many healing properties. The roots and rhizomes contain the chemical berberine, which is known to have antibacterial effects, particularly for digestive problems and the urinary tract.

Since its introduction in the 19th century, this striking shrub has been used in landscapes and gardens throughout the world. Like Darwin, you too have the chance to enjoy Berberis darwinii's interesting foliage, flowers, and fruit, right here at the San Francisco Botanical Garden.

IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS: Text and profile by Sarah Callan. Photos by James Gaither and Joanne Taylor.

Location

Berberis darwinii can be found
Chilean Beds
55B, 57D, 57F
Temperate Asia Bed
41D

Visiting Info >>
Map (Bed Numbers) >>

Profile

Scientific Name Berberis darwinii
Common Names Michay, Darwin's barberry
Family Berberidaceae
Plant Type Very showy evergreen shrub
Environment Tolerates climate and soil extremes; full sun to light shade; moderate to regular watering
Bloom Yellow to orange flowers thickly cover branches and are followed by dark blue berries
Uses Accent plant or large showy shrub. Spreads by underground runners and may form a thicket
 
 
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Aloe arborescens

Erica spp.

January

Edgeworthia chrysantha

Edgeworthia chrysantha

February

Edgeworthia chrysantha

Acacia pravissima

March

Ceanothus spp.

Ceanothus spp.

April

Euphoria mellifera

Euphoria mellifera

May

Bartlettina sordida

Bartlettina sordida

June

 Rhopalostylis sapida

Rhopalostylis sapida

August

 Rhopalostylis sapida

Rhopalostylis sapida

September

Aloe arborescens

Aloe arborescens

January

Magnolia stellata

Magnolia stellata

February

<em>Narcissus</em> spp.

Narcissus spp.

March

Cantua buxifolia

Polylepis spp.

April

Davidia involucrata

Davidia involucrata

May

Digitalis spp.

Digitalis spp.

June

Cantua buxifolia

Gunnera tinctoria

July

Cantua buxifolia

Liriodendron chinense

August

Cantua buxifolia

Cycads of the Ancient Plant Garden

September

Persea americana

Persea americana

October

Persea americana

Iochroma spp.

November

Camellia spp.

Camellia spp.

Deecember

Fitzroya cupressoides

Fitzroya cupressoides

January

Polyspora longicarpa

Polyspora longicarpa

February

Polyspora longicarpa

Magnolia laevifolia

March

Cantua buxifolia

Cantua buxifolia

April

Papaver rhoeas

Papaver rhoeas

May

Strelitzia reginae

Strelitzia reginae

June

Cestrum elegans

Cestrum elegans

July

Dichroa febrifuga

Dichroa febrifuga

August

Dichroa febrifuga

Sequoia sempervirens

September

Cestrum elegans

Salvia confertifolia

October

Cestrum elegans

Nerine bowdenii

November

Cestrum elegans

Protea lepidocarpodendron

December

Magnolia campbellii

Magnolia campbellii

January

Magnolia doltsopa

Magnolia doltsopa

February

Magnolia liliiflora

Magnolia liliiflora

March

Vireya Rhododendrons

Vireya Rhododendrons

April

Leucospermum spp.

Leucospermum spp.

May

Senna multiglandulosa

Senna multiglandulosa

June

Tagetes lemmonii

Tagetes lemmonii

July

Eucomis spp.

Eucomis spp.

August

Cuphea spp.

Cuphea spp.

September

Phyllocladus trichomanoides

Phyllocladus trichomanoides

October

Phyllocladus trichomanoides

Saurauia Madrensis

November

Pinus pseudostrobus

Pinus pseudostrobus

December

Magnolia dawsoniana

Magnolia dawsoniana

January

Magnolia campbellii 'Strybing White'

Magnolia campbellii 'Strybing White'

February

Magnolia laevifolia'Strybing Compact'

Magnolia laevifolia 'Strybing Compact'

March

Aristolochia californica

Aristolochia californica

April

Chlorogalum pomeridianum

Chlorogalum pomeridianum

May

Arbutus menziesii

Arbutus menziesii

June

Romneya coulteri

Romneya coulteri

July

Cistus sp.

Cistus sp.

August

Rosmarinus sp.

Rosmarinus sp.

September

Dahlia spp.

Dahlia spp.

October

Salvia cacaliifolia

Salvia cacaliifolia

November

Salvia cacaliifolia

Salvia microphylla
'Hot Lips'

November

Magnolia campbellii

Magnolia campbellii

January

Magnolia denudata

Magnolia denudata

February

Magnolia x veitchii

Magnolia x veitchii

March

Iris douglasiana

Iris douglasiana

April

Aesculus californica

Aesculus californica

May

Vaccinium ovatum

Vaccinium ovatum

June

Sambucus racemosa

Sambucus racemosa

July

Sequoia sempervirens

Sequoia sempervirens

August

Asarum caudatum

Asarum caudatum

September

Deppea splendens

Deppea splendens

October

Montanoa spp.

Montanoa spp.

November

Bidens sp.

Bidens sp.

December

Acer palmatum 'Sango kaku'

Acer palmatum 'Sango kaku'

January

Magnolia campbellii 'Darjeeling'

Magnolia campbellii 'Darjeeling'

February

Bomaria spp.

Bomarea spp.

March

Rhododendron occidentale

Rhododendron occidentale

April

Polystichum munitum

Polystichum munitum

May

x Chiranthofremontia lenzii

x Chiranthofremontia lenzii

June

Salvia leucantha

Salvia leucantha

July

Hydrangea seemannii

Hydrangea seemannii

August

Wollemia nobilis

Wollemia nobilis

September

Cyathea cooperi

Cyathea cooperi

October

Pinus radiata

Pinus radiata

November

Correa spp.

Correa spp.

December

Garrya elliptica

Garrya elliptica

January

Magnolia x soulangeana

Magnolia x soulangeana

February

Senecio glastifolius

Senecio glastifolius

March

Ribes spp.

Ribes spp.

April

Oxalis oregana

Oxalis oregana

May

Calandrinia grandiflora

Calandrinia grandiflora

June

Taxus baccata

Taxus baccata

July

Romneya coulteri

Romneya coulteri

August

Passiflora parritae

Passiflora parritae

September

Malvaviscus arboreus

Malvaviscus arboreus

October

Monterey Cypress

Monterey Cypress

November

Aloe arborescens

Aloe arborescens

December

Aloe plicatilis

Aloe plicatilis

January

Banksia seminuda

Banksia seminuda

February

Zantedeschia elliottiana

Zantedeschia aethiopica

March

Magnolia laevifolia

Magnolia laevifolia

April

Araucaria heterophylla

Araucaria heterophylla

May

Toxicodendron diversilobum

Toxicodendron diversilobum

June

Clarkia sp.

Clarkia sp.

July

Agapanthus

Agapanthus

August

Brugmansia

Brugmansia

September

Cedrus spp.

Cedrus spp.

October

Protea repens

Protea repens

November

Camellia sinensis

Camellia sinensis

December

Thujopsis dolabrata

Thujopsis dolabrata

January

Gordonia longicarpa

Gordonia longicarpa

February

Rojasianthe superba

Rojasianthe superba

March

Echium spp.

Echium spp.

April

Iris douglasiana

Iris douglasiana

May

Digitalis purpurea

Digitalis purpurea

June

Felicia amelloides

Felicia amelloides

July

Ceroxylon quindiuense

Ceroxylon quindiuense

August

Amaryllis belladonna

Amaryllis belladonna

September

Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba

October

Acer morrisonense

Acer morrisonense

November

Ilex aquifolium

Ilex aquifolium

December

Picea sitchensis

Picea sitchensis

January

Telanthophora grandifolia

Telanthophora grandifolia

February

Aeonium arboreum 'Schwartzkopf'

Aeonium arboreum 'Schwartzkopf'

March

Leptospermum Spp.

Leptospermum

April

Salvia gesneraeflora

Salvia gesneraeflora

May

Lavandula spp.

Lavandula spp.

June

Pelargonium

Pelargonium

July

Fuchsia paniculata

Fuchsia paniculata

August

Luma apiculata

Luma apiculata

September

Luculia

Luculia

October

Arbutus unedo

Arbutus unedo

November

Cycads

Cycad

December

Restionaceae

Restionaceae

January

Hellebores

Hellebores

February

Ceanothus

Ceanothus

March

Rhododendron

Rhododendron

April

Psoralea pinnata

Psoralea pinnata

May

Fremontodendron californicum

Fremontodendron californicum

June

Leucadendron argenteum

Leucadendron argenteum

July

Crocosmia

Crocosmia

August

Gunnera tinctoria

Gunnera tinctoria

September

Pellaea rotundifolia

Pellaea rotundifolia

October

Fuchsia boliviana

Fuchsia boliviana

November

Erica canaliculata

Erica canaliculata

December

Magnolia campbelli

Magnolia campbelli

January

Magnolia denudata

Magnolia denudata

February

Camellia

Camellia

March

Geranium maderense

Geranium maderense

April

Acmena smithii

Acmena smithii

May

Eschscholzia californica

Eschscholzia californica

June

Dendromecon harfordii

Dendromecon harfordii

July

Romneya coulteri

Romneya coulteri

August

Eupatorium purpureum

Eupatorium purpureum

September

Epilobium canum sp.

Epilobium canum sp.

October

Grevillea spp.

Grevillea spp.

November

Drimys winteri

Drimys winteri

December

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