Berberis vulgaris is a shrub to 3 m tall, stems spiny, bark gray, freely branched.
Leaves alternate, in small, dense tufts opposite spines, leaf stalk short, jointed, blade widest above middle, 2-5 cm long, margin finely spiny-toothed (Flora of North America 1993+).
Flowers yellow, radially symmetrical; much like those of B. thunbergii; inflorescences unbranched (raceme) to 6 cm long, bearing 10-20, flowers; blooms May-June.
Fruit fleshy, 1 cm long, bright red, apparently edible.
Wetland status: FACU.
Frequency in NYC: Very infrequent.
Habitat: Apparently not much planted now and not often escaping in NYC.
Notes: Listed as invasive by the NYS Natural Heritage Program’s Ad hoc committee on invasive plants. Formerly exterminated as an alternate host of wheat stem rust (Puccinia graminis tritici, Basidiomycotina). Listed as a banned invasive species in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire (USDA, NRCS 2007).