Herb: Magellan Barberry

Latin name: Berberis buxifolia

Synonyms: Berberis dulcis

Family: Berberidaceae (Barberry Family)

Medicinal use of Magellan Barberry:

Berberine, universally present in rhizomes of Berberis species, has marked antibacterial effects. Since it is not appreciably absorbed by the body, it is used orally in the treatment of various enteric infections, especially bacterial dysentery. It should not be used with Glycyrrhiza species (Liquorice) because this nullifies the effects of the berberine. Berberine has also shown antitumour activity.

Description of the plant:


2.5 m
(8 1/4 foot)


Habitat of the herb:

Coastal scrub, forest margins, clearings and moister areas in grass.

Edible parts of Magellan Barberry:

Fruit - raw or used in conserves. Freely borne in Britain. Large and black with a pleasant flavour, they are eaten out of hand. Said to be the best flavoured of the South American barberries, the fruit is hardly acid and but slightly astringent. The green unripe fruits can be used like gooseberries in pies etc. The fruits are about 8mm long.

Other uses of the herb:

A yellow dye is obtained from the root. The dwarf form, var. "Nana" makes a good dwarf hedge to 1 metre tall.

Propagation of Magellan Barberry:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, when it should germinate in late winter or early spring. Seed from over-ripe fruit will take longer to germinate, whilst stored seed may require cold stratification and should be sown in a cold frame as early in the year as possible. The seedlings are subject to damping off, so should be kept well ventilated. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame. If growth is sufficient, it can be possible to plant them out into their permanent positions in the autumn, but generally it is best to leave them in the cold frame for the winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Roots in 4 - 8 weeks. Pot up in spring. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season's growth, preferably with a heel, October/November in a frame.

Cultivation of the herb:

Coastal scrub, forest margins, clearings and moister areas in grass.

Known hazards of Berberis buxifolia:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.