Magellan Barberry (Berberis buxifolia)

B. dulcis.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Magellan Barberry
Berberis buxifolia

A yellow dye is obtained from the root[139].

The dwarf form, var. ‘Nana’ makes a good dwarf hedge to 1 metre tall[182].

  • Medicinal Use

    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[218]. It should not be used with Glycyrrhiza species (Liquorice) because this nullifies the effects of the berberine[218]. Berberine has also shown antitumour activity[218].

  • Edible Use

    Fruit – raw or used in conserves[3, 11, 69, 139, 177]. Freely borne in Britain. Large and black with a pleasant flavour, they are eaten out of hand[183]. Said to be the best flavoured of the South American barberries, the fruit is hardly acid and but slightly astringent[2]. The green unripe fruits can be used like gooseberries in pies etc[2, 183]. The fruits are about 8mm long[200].

  • Cautionary Notes

    None known

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, when it should germinate in late winter or early spring[78]. Seed from over-ripe fruit will take longer to germinate[78], whilst stored seed may require cold stratification and should be sown in a cold frame as early in the year as possible[80]. The seedlings are subject to damping off, so should be kept well ventilated[113]. 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[113]. Pot up in spring[113]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season’s growth, preferably with a heel, October/November in a frame[78].
Prefers a warm moist loamy soil and light shade but it is by no means fastidious, succeeding in thin, dry and shallow soils and in full sun[11, 200]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Plants are hardy to about -15¡c[184], but they can be deciduous in cold winters[188]. The dwarf B. buxifolia nana is the form of this species that is most commonly found growing in Britain. It is very free flowering but to date (1994) we have not seen this form bearing fruit[K]. The species is supposed to be self-fertile so it is possible that this form is sterile. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus[1]. Plants can be pruned back quite severely and resprout well from the base[200].
S. America – S. Chile and S. Argentina. Occasionally naturalized in Britain[17].

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.