Japanese Barberry, Invasive Winter Fruit

Check Out Our Latest YOUTUBE videos:

Berberis thunbergii, Japanese Barberry fruits and leaves
Berberis thunbergii, Japanese Barberry fruits and leaves (Photo By: Alpsdake / Wikimedia Commons)

Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is an invasive shrub in eastern United States.  It can grow in dense forest shade and is not typically eaten by dear.  It is commonly used as a landscape plant and a few varieties have been developed for that purpose. Efforts are under way to prevent the species and all its cultivated varieties from being sold in commercial plant nurseries.  There is a native Barberry (Berberis Canadensis) but in most places it is not seen as commonly as Japanese Barberry.

Edibility and Culinary Use

The berries and leaves are edible.  The taste of the berries is interesting.  It has a bitter taste but it also has a hint of sweetness and tartness.  It’s slightly too bitter to be something you would want to eat handfuls of.

Berberis thunbergii, Japanese Barberry Fruit in winter
Berberis thunbergii, Japanese Barberry Fruit in winter

What I like about this plant is that the fruit holds on to the stem for months, so even in the winter in north eastern and central US you can find berries still hanging on to the plant, and they get sweeter with age so you might find one that’s not to bad tasting. The berries are more commonly used with other fruits in pies, jelly preserves, and drink mixtures. The leaves can also be eaten cooked, but it’s deciduous so they fall off before winter.

Health Benefits

Japanese Barberry and our Native barberry have vitamin C in the fruits. They were both important foods for indigenous people in their native habitats. Like so many other wild edibles the chemical berberine in the plant shows signs of having anti-tumor properties.

Key ID Features

SHARP THORNS! The thorns are small, sharp and plentiful. The interior of the twigs is a yellowish color.


Berberis thunbergii, Japanese Barberry yellow stems interior
Berberis thunbergii, Japanese Barberry yellow stems interior

Japanese barberry is an important winter foraging fruit when many fruits are nowhere to be found.  You can get vitamin C and a slightly fruity flavor in the middle of winter.  Even though the taste of the plant isn’t on the same level as Raspberries and Service Berries it’s persistence into winter is one good reason to look for this plant next time you’re hiking or foraging in cold weather.

Read our Article on: Safe Foraging

Berberis thunbergii, Japanese Barberry landscape variety
Berberis thunbergii, Japanese Barberry landscape variety (Photo By: Digigalos / Wikimedia Commons)

Featured Videos - eattheplanet.org

Many of our readers find that subscribing to Eat The Planet is the best way to make sure they don't miss any of our valuable information about wild edibles.

Subscribe to our mailing list

our facebook page for additional articles and updates.

Follow us on Twitter @EatThePlanetOrg

eattheplanet.org is an affiliate marketer. We may earn commission from links to products and services on this page.

Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)
Is Jewelweed A Good Poison Ivy Remedy? (Scientific Studies)
Read more.
Allium vineale - Wild Garlic Bulbs
5 Edible Survival Plants Everyone Should Know(Worldwide)
Read more.
Black Raspberry (Rubus occidentalis)
Wild Blackberries and Raspberries, a Diverse Group of Delicious Edibles
Read more.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Seeds
Dandelion, a Surprisingly Beneficial Wild Edible
Read more.
Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum)
Dead Nettle, an Overlooked yet Valuable Wild Edible
Read more.
Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) Fruits
Black Chokeberry, a Native Super Food
Read more.
Dryad’s saddle (Polyporus squamosus)
Dryad’s Saddle, a Unique and Tasty Mushroom
Read more.
Ramps (Allium tricoccum) Field
Ramps, a Popular and Versatile Herb
Read more.
Maitake (Grifola frondosa)
Maitake, the Wonderful King of Mushrooms
Read more.
Black medic (Medicago lupulina) Flowers and Leaves
Black Medic, an Underrated and Useful Wild Edible
Read more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>