Red Barberry, Desert Barberry, Red Mahonia

Mahonia haematocarpa

Family: Berberidaceae (bear-ber-id-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Mahonia (ma-HO-nee-uh) (Info)
Species: haematocarpa (hem-at-oh-KAR-puh) (Info)
Synonym:Berberis haematocarpa
Synonym:Berberis nevinii var. haematocarpa



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)


USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade


Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:

Bright Yellow

Bloom Time:

Mid Spring



Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From softwood cuttings

Seed Collecting:

Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing

Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Anniston, Alabama

Ajo, Arizona

Maricopa, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona

Rio Rico, Arizona

Vernon, Arizona

Pittsburg, California

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Austin, Texas (2 reports)

Georgetown, Texas

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Apr 4, 2011, grovespirit from Sunset Valley, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

This plant is synonymous with the Botanical names Mahonia trifoliolata and Berberis trifoliolata.

This native barberry plant is suitable for xeriscapes. It was once very important for food and medicine to Native Americans and settlers in TX, the desert SW states, and Northern Mexico.
Very attractive and helpful to wildlife, especially birds.

Still useful for herbalism, and its berries may also be used for emergency food, for jelly making, or for home winemaking.
Also has applications as a dye plant.

Common name of this plant in Mexico and in TX is "Agarita."


On Sep 26, 2008, sterlingblur from Vernon, AZ wrote:

I have lived here in Vernon (Crossroads) for 2 1/2 years and always thought this plant was scrub oak. But this afternoon while walking the dogs I found berries on one of the shrubs. I tasted one. Not bad. I ran and looked at some of the other shrubs but haven't found anymore yet. Got another 2 1/2 acres to look at tomorrow. I was amazed at what they are good for in a medicinal way!!


On Jan 5, 2007, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Red Barberry, Desert Barberry Berberis haematocarpa is Native to Texas and other States.


On Nov 11, 2004, Xenomorf from Valley of the Sun, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

The leaves are similar to Holly; the dark pink and red berries are edible. It needs a little extra water in the lower deserts.

I've seen this growing in the wild on the 'El Camino Del Diablo Trail' (Devils' Highway) that runs between Ajo and Wellton in Arizona through the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.
I've also seen these growing in the wild on West Ruby Road Trail in Arizona (South of Tucson), off of Interstate 19 through to Ruby, AZ and on to Arivaca, AZ.