©The World Botanical Associates Web Page
Prepared by Richard W. Spjut
September 2006, Dec 2007, Jan 2013, Jan 2014, June 2014

Berberis aquifolium var. dictyota
California.  Kern Co., Caliente Ranch, CA. CNPS Chapter/Nature Conservancy  Field Trip,
24 May 2013

Berberis aquifolium var. dictyota
California. Klamath Mts., Trinity Co.
Trinity Lake, May 2006

California. Berberis aquifolium var. dictyota
Peninsular Ranges, Riverside Co.
S & M 14711, Apr 2002

Berberis fremontii
Nevada. Clark Co., Spring Mts., May 2002
(S&M 14732), May 2006


Berberis haematocarpa
Arizona. Gila Co.,Tonto Natl. For.
near Roosevelt Lake
Apr 2008

Berberis haematocarpa
Arizona. Apache Co., near Sitgreaves
Oct 2007

Berberis nervosa
California. Marble Mts. Wilderness,
North Fork, Salmon River
July 2006


Berberis nervosa

Washington. Wenatchee NF: Icicle Creek, along south side of River on trail between Chatter Creek and Jack Creek; 47º19.436, 120º34.626",  2825 ft.  Dense riparian forest on nearly level rocky soil with Abies grandis, Thuja plicata, Picea englemannii, Tsuga heterophylla, Pinus monticola, P. ponderosa, Pseudotsuga menziesii, Larix occidentalis, and understory shrubs Acer circinatum, Amelanchier alnifolia, Alnus sinuata, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Berberis nervosa, Cornus sericea, Lonicera involucrata, Menziesia ferruginea, Paxistima myrsinites, Rubus parviflorus, Shepherdia canadensis, Rosa woodsii and herbs Smilacina racemosa, Xerophyllum tenax. 12 July 2010.


Berberis repens

Utah—Rocky Mts. San Juan Co.: Manti-la Sal NF, Abajo Mts., between Monticello and Blanding, Forest Rd 85 west of Hwy 191; 37º45'25.6", 109º25.10.1", 2262 m, Richard Spjut & Susan Spjut 16307, May 2008


Berberis sp., cf repens
Nevada—Calcareous Mts. White Pine Co., Humboldt-Toiyabe NF, Ely Ranger Dist.: Schell Creek Range, Connor Pass, south side off Hwy 50/6; 39º02'00.4", 114º58.45.7", 2414 m.  Pinyon-juniper woodland on limestone derived soil. Spjut & Burchstead 16359, June 2008.

Berberis trifoliolata
Texas. Lake Corpus Christi
June 1978

Berberis asiatica—berberine sulfate and oxyacanthine (KB) were isolated by Doskoth (Hartwell 1976).

Trees and Shrubs of Kern County (Jan 2013)

Berberis aquifolium Pursh 1814 var. dictyota (Berberis dictyota Jepson 1891) Jepson 1922. Shining netvein barberry. Evergreen shrub with erect stems and alternate leaves divided into (5-) 7 (-9) holly-like leaflets, 2 m high; stems with brown to purplish bark and bright yellow slash; leaflets rigid, shining and reticulate above (Jepson 1922) or dull and glaucous (FNA),1.5–2× longer than wide, 2.2–8.8 cm long, spiny toothed along wavy margins, 3–8 (-10)  toothed, wide triangular to lobed near base. Flowering Mar–May, yellow, along many clustered flower stems to 6 cm; fruit a blue berry. Endemic to California; oak woodland, pine forests, and chaparral below 6,000 ft. Type from Marysville Buttes, CA. Kern Co.: “Widely distributed through the Greenhorn Range from middle elevations of the Douglas oak woodland to the lower levels of the ponderosa pine forest.” “dense colony of about 3 acres grows on a broad open sunny high slope” at “Tollgate Lookout in the northeastern Tehachapi Mountains” (Twisselmann), 1,033–1,376 m (CCH).

Pharmacological References

Amann M., N. Nagakura and M. H. Zenk.  1998. Purification and properties of (S)-tetrahydroprotoberberine oxidase from suspension-cultured cells of Berberis wilsoniae. Eur. J. Biochem. 175(1): 17–25.  “A novel oxidase, catalyzing in the presence of oxygen the removal of four hydrogen atoms from a number of tetrahydroprotoberberines with simultaneous production of 1 mol H2O2 and H2O each, has been discovered and purified to homogeneity from Berberis wilsoniae cell cultures. This enzyme, (S)-tetrahydroprotoberberine oxidase, exhibited strict specificity for the (S)-enantiomer of tetrahydroprotoberberines and 1-benzylisoquinoline alkaloids, a pH optimum at 8.9, a molecular mass of 105 kDa and consisted of two subunits each of 53 kDa and covalently bound flavin. The Km values for (S)-scoulerine and (S)-norreticuline were 25 microM and 150 microM respectively. Concentration of the end-products, either protoberberines or H2O2, greater than 0.5 mM caused severe enzyme inhibition. This catalyst was responsible for the conversion of (S)-tetrahydrocolumbamine to the key intermediate, columbamine, in the metabolic pathway leading to berberine, jatrorrhizine and palmatine.

Arayne M. S., N. Sultana and S. S. Bahadur. 2007. The berberis story: Berberis vulgaris in therapeutics. Pak. J. Pharm. Sci. 20(1):83–92.  “Barberry has played a prominent role in herbal healing for more than 2,500 years. Berberis vulgaris is a common garden bush, native to Europe and the British Isles, naturalized in North America, seems to have history as old as human race. Anthropologists believe in a ritual practice or sacred object, especially by Native Americans that it works as a supernatural power or as preventive or remedy of illness. It is a deciduous shrub having yellow flowers and scarlet colored fruit in the form of berries. Twenty two alkaloids have been reported so far from root, stem leaves and fruit of this plant, which are of medicinal importance. As a herbal remedy it has no match in serving human race since ancient times. It is the most widely used drug in Homeopathic system of medicine for kidney pain and for removal of kidney stones. In this article, we present countless blessings of nature encountered through this herb which are worthy of recording.

Di D. L., Y. W. Liu, Z. G. Ma and S. X. Jiang.  2003. Determination of four alkaloids in Berberis plants by HPLC.  Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi 28(12):1132–1134. In Chinese. Abstract—In order to assess Berberis, a simple and effective high-performance liquid chromatographic (HPLC) method was established. By applying HPLC with gradiation elution, this method was developed to determine four kinds of alkaloids including berbamine, Jatrorrhizine, berberine and palmatine in methanolic extracts from root bark, root, stem bark and stem of Berberis. The alkaloids berbamine, jatrorrhizine, berberine and palmatine showed good linear correlations in the range of 0.028-4.74 microg (r = 0.9998); 0.012-2.0 microg (r = 0.9996); 0.026-0.52 microg (r = 0.9999); 0.015-2.56 microg (r = 0.9998), respectively. The correlation coefficients of the calibration curve for the analyses exceeded 0.9998. The optimized HPLC method was applied to analyze various samples, and the results showed that the content of alkaloids differed obviously in Berberis from different area, different species and different parts.

Hsieh Y. S., W. H. Kuo, T. W. Lin, H. R. Chang, T. H. Lin, P. N. Chen and S. C. Chu. 2007. Protective Effects of Berberine against Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Oxidation and Oxidized LDL-Induced Cytotoxicity on Endothelial Cells.  J. Agric. Food Chem. 55(25):10437–10445.  “The oxidative modification of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is thought to have a central role in the pathogenesis of atherogenesis. Berberine, a natural constituent of plants of the genera Coptis and Berberis, has several anti-inflammation and anticancer biological effects. However, its protective effects on LDL oxidation and endothelial injury induced by oxLDL remain unclear. In this study, we evaluated the antioxidative activity of berberine and how berberine rescues human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) from oxidized LDL (oxLDL)-mediated dysfunction. The antioxidative activity of berberine was defined by the relative electrophoretic mobility of oxLDL, fragmentation of ApoB, and malondialdehyde production via the Cu (2+)-mediated oxidation of LDL. Berberine also inhibited the generation of ROS and the subsequent mitochondrial membrane potential collapse, chromosome condensation, cytochrome C release, and caspase-3 activation induced by oxLDL in HUVECs. Our results suggest that berberine may protect LDL oxidation and prevent oxLDL-induced cellular dysfunction.”

Kim Y. D., S. H. Kim and L. R. Landrum.  2004. Taxonomic and phytogeographic implications from ITS phylogeny in Berberis (Berberidaceae). J. Plant Res. 117(3): 175–82.  “A phylogeny based on the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequences from 79 taxa representing much of the diversity of Berberis L. (four major groups and 22 sections) was constructed for the first time. The phylogeny was basically congruent with the previous classification schemes at higher taxonomic levels, such as groups and subgroups. A notable exception is the non-monophyly of the group Occidentales of compound-leaved Berberis (previously separated as Mahonia). At lower levels, however, most of previous sections and subsections were not evident especially in simple-leaved Berberis. Possible relationship between section Horridae (group Occidentales) and the simple-leaved Berberis clade implies paraphyly of the compound-leaved Berberis. A well-known South America-Old World (mainly Asia) disjunctive distribution pattern of the simple-leaved Berberis is explained by a vicariance event occurring in the Cretaceous period. The ITS phylogeny also suggests that a possible connection between the Asian and South American groups through the North American species ( Berberis canadensis or B. fendleri) is highly unlikely."

Kim S. H., S. J. Lee, J. H. Lee, W. S. Sun and J. H. Kim.  2002. Antimicrobial activity of 9-O-acyl- and 9-O-alkylberberrubine derivatives. Planta Med. 68(3): 277–281.  “For the structure-activity relationship study on berberrubine derivatives, a series of compounds bearing 9-O-acyl- and 9-O-alkyl-substituents were synthesized and tested for antimicrobial activity against Gram-positive, Gram-negative bacteria and fungi. Octanoyl, decanoyl, lauroyl derivatives among the acyl analogs and hexyl, heptyl, octyl, nonyl, decyl, undecyl derivatives among the alkyl analogs showed strong antimicrobial activity against Gram-positive bacteria and fungi. As a whole, alkyl analogs were more active than acyl analogs for antimicrobial activity. Synthesized derivatives had no activity on Gram-negative bacteria. Too short or too long substituents decreased activity. These results suggest that the presence of lipophilic substituents with moderate sizes might be crucial for the optimal antimicrobial activity.

Lin S. S., J. G. Chung, J. P. Lin, J. Y. Chuang, W. C. Chang, J. Y. Wu and Y. S. Tyan. 2005. Berberine inhibits arylamine N-acetyltransferase activity and gene expression in mouse leukemia L 1210 cells. Phytomedicine 12(5): 351–358. “N-acetyltransferases (NATs) are recognized to play a key role in the primary step of arylamine compounds metabolism. Polymorphic NAT is coded for rapid or slow acetylators, which are being thought to involve cancer risk related to environmental exposure. Berberine has been shown to induce apoptosis and affect NAT activity in human leukemia cells. The purpose of this study is to examine whether or not berberine could affect arylamine NAT activity and gene expression (NAT mRNA) and the levels of NAT protein in mouse leukemia cells (L 1210). N-acetylated and non-N-acetylated AF were determined and quantited by using high performance liquid chromatography. NAT mRNA was determined and quantited by using RT-PCR. The levels of NAT protein were examined by western blotting and determined by using flow cytometry. Berberine displayed a dose-dependent inhibition to cytosolic NAT activity and intact mice leukemia cells. Time-course experiments indicated that N-acetylation of AF measured from intact mice leukemia cells were inhibited by berberine for up to 24 h. The NAT1 mRNA and NAT proteins in mouse leukemia cells were also inhibited by berberine. This report is the first demonstration, which showed berberine affect mice leukemia cells NAT activity, gene expression (NAT1 mRNA) and levels of NAT protein.

Morales M. A., L. R. Gallardo, J. L. Martinez, R. S. Puebla and D. A. Hernandez.  1989. Effects of 7-O-demethylisothalicberine, a bisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloid of Berberis chilensis, on electrical activity of frog cardiac pacemaker cells.  Gen. Pharmacol. 20(5): 621–625.  “In spontaneously beating preparations of sinus venosus of the chilean frog Caudiverbera caudiverbera, the electrophysiological effects of 7-O-demethylisothalicberine (7-O-DI) on transitional pacemaker cells were investigated. 2. 7-O-DI in concentration 1 x 10(-4) M blocked the action potential of transitional cells. This blockade was preceded by subthreshold oscillations and depolarization of membrane potential. 3. Lower concentration of the drug to induce complete blockade (5 x 10(-5) M), allowed to observe a great depression of bioelectric cell characteristics in transitional fibres. 4. 7-O-DI induced blockade of transitional cells action potential was preceded by the appearance of a notch in their upstroke and the persistence of a fast depolarizing activity that remained unblocked. This 7-O-DI resistant fast component of the upstroke was blocked by tetrodotoxin. 5. Transitional cells completely blocked by 7-O-DI were depolarized to about 40 mV. 6. The results indicate a close similarity between 7-O-DI and verapamil effects on action potential configuration.

Stermitz F. R., T. D. Beeson, P. J. Mueller, J. Hsiang and K. Lewis.  2001. Staphylococcus aureus MDR efflux pump inhibitors from a Berberis and a Mahonia (sensu strictu) species.  Biochem. Syst. Ecol. 29(8): 793–798.  “Bioactive fractionation, based on multi-drug resistance (MDR) pump inhibition in Staphylococcus aureus, resulted in the isolation of the active inhibitors 5'-methoxyhydnocarpin-D from leaves of Berberis (formerly Mahonia) trifoliolata and pheophorbide a from Berberis fendleri. The hydnocarpin derivative was not found in the latter species. Pheophytin a (the phytol derivative of pheophorbide a) was identified from both species, but it proved to have no MDR pump inhibitory activity. The somewhat uncommon, and inactive, flavonoid tricin was identified from B. trifoliolata. The occurrence of a flavonolignan in Mahonia-tpe species and its absence in Berberis sensu strictu may provide a chemical differentiation between the two groups which are now recombined on the basis of DNA studies. The strong bacterial efflux pump inhibition of pheophorbide a could be of importance as a plant defense against natural pathogens.

Xu R., Q. Dong, Y. Yu, X. Zhao, X. Gan, D. Wu, Q. Lu, X. Xu and X. F. Yu.  2006. Berbamine: a novel inhibitor of bcr/abl fusion gene with potent anti-leukemia activity.  Leuk. Res. 30(1): 17–23. Gleevec, which is an inhibitor of the bcr/abl tyrosine kinase, has been a remarkable success for the treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). However, a significant proportion of patients chronically treated with Gleevec develop resistance. Here we describe the activity of a natural small molecular compound, berbamine from plant Berberis amurensis that can selectively induce cell death of both Gleevec-sensitive and -resistant Ph+ CML cells. The IC50 values of berbamine were 8.80 microg/ml in Gleevec-sensitive Ph+ CML cells, 11.34 microg/ml in Gleevec-resistant Ph+ CML cells, and 54.40 microg/ml in Ph- KG-1 cells, respectively. Similarly, berbamine was also found to display a selective anti-proliferative activity of primary leukemia cells from CML patients, and its IC50 values were 4.20-10.50 microg/ml in primary CML cells, and 185.20 microg/ml in normal bone marrow cells, respectively. More importantly, our studies demonstrate that berbamine down-regulates p210bcr/abl oncoprotein level, and induces apoptosis of bcr/abl+ cells through caspase-3-dependent pathway. These data suggest that berbamine might be a novel bcr/abl inhibitor with potent anti-leukemia activity.