Berberidaceae (Barberry Family)

Consisting of Shrubs and perennial herbs, the Berberidaceae (Barberry family) has only a few local species. Although many exotic species of Berberidaceae have been in cultivation, native gardeners would do well to look at the four attractive species that grow naturally in the Bay Area: Berberis pinnata pinnata (Coast Barberry), Berberis nervosa (Longleaf Oregon Grape), Berberis aquifolium (Oregon Grape) and Vancouver planipetala (Inside-out Flower).

In Berberidaceae (with a few exceptions), flowers have 6 petal-like sepals in 2 circles, 6 petals also in 2 circles, 6 stamens, and single compartment fruit that is dry or fleshy.

Berberis pinnata pinnata (Coast Barberry) is found on Montara Mountain.


Berberis pinnata pinnata :
Coast Barberry

Berberidaceae (Barberry Family)


Flowers: Yellow and tiny, six petals; in dense clusters at top of stems.

Blooms: April - July.

Leaves: Glossy green (sometimes red), spiny and holly-like.

Fruit/Seeds: Bluish green- red berries, with a gray dusting, in small clusters among blossoms. June - August.

Location: Dry trails, rocky areas at higher elevations around Saddle Pass (1000 ') and higher up to the peaks.

Status: Native - Common.

Berberis pinnata pinnata

Barberry grows in sheltered, dry areas throughout the higher elevations of Montara Mountain.

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Further description & Comment: 6 in - 2 ft tall, evergreen. B. pinnata, along with the other "Oregon Grapes", have a high isoquinoline alkaloid content and have been utilized for herbal remedies for skin and liver disorders. Our Coast Barberry has some of the highest content of these compounds, especially those growing under more stressful "botanical ordeals:" i.e.; squashed between rocks or growing upside down.

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Close-up views of the flowers and berries of Barberry. The berries are edible but extremely sour, although the claim is that with enough sugar they produce an interesting "Barberry-ade."


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