Berberis darwinii

Darwin's barberry

Family: Berberidaceae

Origin: South America

Close up of flowerbuds of Darwin's barberry.
Clusters of flowers are followed by purplish-black berries.
Photo credit: Antonie van den Bos,

Regional Pest Management Plan (RPMP) status

  • National Pest Plant Accord Species
  • Whole region — Sustained control

View more about the RPMP statuses

General description

Evergreen shrub < 5 m tall. Stems are tough, woody, densely hairy, and bear five-pronged needle-sharp spines. Leaves are < 30 x 15 cm, hairless, glossy, dark green and spiny-edged. Flowers are golden/yellow and hang in clusters July – February. Berries are oval and purple/black.

What you need to know

To help protect our environment:

  • You must not breed, distribute, release or sell Darwin’s barberry. As Darwin’s barberry is a National Pest Plant Accord species, these restrictions apply within the Auckland region and across the whole of New Zealand.
  • You must not plant Darwin's barberry within the Auckland region, unless you are transferring an existing plant on your land to another location within the boundaries of the same property.
  • You must destroy any Darwin's barberry on land that you occupy if it has been planted in breach of the above rules and you are directed to do so by an authorised person.


Disturbed forest, scrubland, wasteland.


Seeds dispersed by birds, soil movement, water and possibly possums. Vegetative spread from root suckering.

Impact on environment

Outcompetes native plants in disturbed forest and scrubland, altering the understorey. May impact the horticultural industry as a host of various plant pathogens.


Site Management

Follow up treated areas 3 times per year. Encourage natural regeneration of native plants or replant treated areas where possible after 2-3 treatments to establish dense ground cover and minimise reinvasion.

Recommended approaches

Physical control

Method: Dig out.

Plant parts requiring disposal: All parts.

Disposal options: Remove to greenwaste or landfill if practical.


Agents available but not yet released in the region:

  • Darwin’s Barberry flower weevil (Anthonomus kuscheli)
  • Darwin’s Barberry seed weevil (Berberidicola exaratus)

For more information about how biocontrol works, see What is biocontrol?

Community agrichemical control recommendations

No qualifications: Cut stump and paste freshly cut base of stems with metsulfuron gel.

Basic Growsafe certified: Foliar spray with 5g metsulfuron-methyl per 10L of water.

Certified Handler/Experienced agrichemical user: Foliar spray with 5g metsulfuron-methyl per 10L of water and 20ml penetrant.

Safety notes

Plant has thorns.

Caution: When using any herbicide or pesticide please read the label thoroughly to ensure that all instructions and safety requirements are followed.

Close up of flower buds of Darwin's barberry.
Darwin's barberry is a 5 m tall spiny shrub with deep orange-yellow flowers.
Photo credit: Antonie van den Bos,
Close up of the flowers of Darwin's barberry.
Birds feed on the fruit dispersing the seeds.
Close up of Darwin's barberry leaves.
The leaves are hairless and usually have spines along the edges.