removing barberry

Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

What is the best way to remove barberry?
Would a weed wrench do the trick? In a reforestation project (see Indigenous Plants -14 acres) we would like to remove barberry and replant in that hole a native substitute immediately. Can we do this with good results? The ground in areas is very rocky and using the existing hole would be helpful.
Also, can topsoil be brought in to add to the hole or would this be a problem?
I'm sorry if this was addressed before but I did a search and came up without an answer.
edited to add: Has anyone used a KBC BAR ( Forestery-Suppliers) as a tool to dig in rocky soils?

This message was edited Feb 15, 2008 6:53 AM

Thumbnail by sempervirens

I've successfully removed Rosa multiflora using a weed wrench so I don't see any reason why it wouldn't work removing larger barberries. You are going to need to wear heavier clothing to protect yourself though and I'd strongly encourage you all to wear goggles. When you start working with plants like this, think of an octopus with thorns on every arm out to get you. Those branches will slap you as you attempt to get your tool around the base so you can rip it out of the ground. No need to have a thorns smacking you across the face.

This is the weed wrench I use-

I've been catching the Barberry before it's gotten a chance to get a good foothold over here. So far, all of the plants have been able to be removed by hand. I use rose gloves. Rose gloves are great because they go up high on my arm and the pair I have is leather so I'm not going to get bloody from the barberries.

I have a planting bar from Forestry Suppliers. I've used it to plant bareroots. I don't know if we are talking about the same bar or not. I've not had to use it in rocky soils though but it would be worth a try if you are going to be planting bare roots. It can be a time saver.

I have my reservations about bringing in top soil. Is there any soil that could be used from other areas on the property? Maybe there's a pile somewhere left over from the creation of a picnic shelter that you don't know about that could be relocated to the site you are working? Something that might be worth while checking into.

Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

Thanks Equil for the information. I voiced my concern about trucking in topsoil and we will look for existing soil piles.

Ya, they'd probably be "trucking in" different noxious weed and invasive species to add to those that they already have and who needs the headaches.

I used to drive by a developer of a large strip mall who had a great big sign selling top soil. I watched one day as one of their pieces of heavy equipment loaded a pick up truck with "top soil" that had been piled up away from the excavated area. Next day, I noticed another PU being loaded with "top soil". As the months went on, the big pile slowly dwindled. I sort of felt bad for all the people who were buying that "top soil" and bringing it home to use because I had seen so many undesireables growing on that property before it was sold to be developed. Typical vacant land all grown over with invasive species and noxious weeds with a for sale sign on it.

I mentioned this to a few friends. I learned from one of them that was nothing new. There were businesses out there stripping top soil then letting it sit then stripping the newly exposed soils that were now the "top" soil and that this was common practice. One problem, we all know what happens when soils are disturbed. Couldn't help but wonder how other developers, landscapers, department store chains, gardening centers, and big box home improvement centers defined "top soil". I don't bring in top soil from other areas any longer. I already had more than my fair share of unwanted species and certainly didn't need different unwanted species from other areas. Created way too much work when I was buying top soil from other areas because it was always sort of a Trojan Horse.

Florence, AL

I'm sorry, Why would you want to get rid of barberry? You could just trim it back, instead of pulling it up. I think they look great, especially crimson and gold together.

South Hamilton, MA

If it is Japanese barberry it is invasive. You can look for native ones.

Berberis thunbergii really shouldn't be sold any longer in my humble opinion, at least not in this Country. It's already documented as being a highly invasive species and has naturalize in many states-

If you scroll down at the above site, you will find hyperlinks to articles as well as research on Japanese Barberry and a listing of the few states that I believe have already banned the sale of them. I'm pretty sure this plant is one that my state has slated to be banned sometime this year but who knows if it will or not until we actually see the final list. Not exactly a plant that would be a great choice for people on the continent of NA and particularly not in areas where it is already documented as having escaped cultivation such as the state in which I garden or the state in which the member who originally posted gardens.

For me, the big problem is that this plant is extremely popular and for some reason the nurseries around here have really been pushing it so seems as if it's the new burning bush to flank one's front doors or to line one's walk to the front door. The problem with the straight species and all these really beautiful looking cultivars being sold is that their offspring are ending up everywhere around here because everyone's Barberry is breeding with everyone else's Barberry and the offspring of the cultivars seem to be reverting to type and popping up everywhere. Creating a lot of work for me so I don't want any of them getting a foothold here.

As suggested by irisMA, there are some milder mannered NA natives. Unfortunately none are native to where I garden.

South Hamilton, MA

DH says his first experience with the barberry was falling off a porch railing into a bush--he was 10 or 11. He didn't like it.
What shrubs are native to your area that you could use as replacements.

Native to my area that could be used as an environmentally friendly alternative would be far too many to list. I use anything I can get my hands on that is documented as occurring in my county prior to European colonization because I've got both upland and wetlands. I love the diversity of plants and love the diversity of wildlife that planting natives encourages to use my property.

Now for Massachusetts, some of the replacements I could use would be the same as what you could use but some will be different. What characteristics of the Japanese Barberry did you like that would help narrow down the selection?

I have to tell you that this particular plant gaining such popularity to the extent that so many cultivars are available absolutely blows my mind. Just as your husband got nailed by it when he was little, I've been getting nailed by it when I have to yank it out of the ground. Ouch!

South Hamilton, MA

Berry color in the fall. Our war is with buckthorn which I don't think has anything going for it.

Edgartown, MA(Zone 7a)

Your dh will be happy to hear that it has been illegal to import Japanese Barberry into the state of Massachusetts since January 1st 2006 and if I recall correctly the nursery industry has another year to sell off the last of their stock. As it was the nursery industry who presented the invasives list to the legislature close to five years ago I feel pretty confident that your local nursery will have some great suggestions to meet your specific conditions. I think the prohibited plant list is pretty complete for most of Massachusetts, of course there are regional exceptions but I think it is a great start. Now I wonder how many more years come and go before we are in conflict with one or more neighboring states for their lack of initiative?kt

South Hamilton, MA

The news kept saying 140 plants prohibited & not saying what. Finally caught up with it. DH chops down all the multiflora rose anyway. I. pseudacorus x I. ensata gaining ground and they are sterile.

So you love the bright red berries of Japanese Barberry. Me too.

I just did a quick eye ball for you from a list for your state by going here-
Then over to the right you will see an area that says “I want to…” and then there’s a list right below that and top of the list is “See a list of the plants in my state”. Click on that and the next page allows you to click on Massachusetts. Click on it and the next page gives you this list-
Voila, all plants documented as occurring in your state. First shrub I spot that I know has bright red berries is- Amelanchier arborea
If you click on the scientific name the entry for the plant will come up-
Note to the left you will see basic information.
Symbol: AMAR3
Group: Dicot
Family: Rosaceae
Duration: Perennial
Growth Habit: Tree Shrub
Native Status:
L48 N

See the N for this plant denoting native status? That tells you right out the gate if you’ve got an introduced species (I) or a NA native species. Over to the right you will frequently find the word characteristics. If you click on that you can find other information. If you go back to the plant entry and scroll down on the page and click on your state, a whole page will appear showing you the counties for your state in which the plant is documented as occurring.
That’s how easy it can be to determine if a plant is native to your county or not. Invasive accounts show up for you by scrolling way down on the main plant entry page but please know some states don’t document invasiveness therefore data isn’t always available.

Couple others with really nice red berries that you might really take a liking to are:
Viburnum opulus L. var. americanum (syn. V. trilobum)
Vaccinium macrocarpon
Ilex verticillata
I. laevigata
Ribes aureum (orange and red berries) photos showing flowers but not the red berries
R. cereum
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Photinia pyrifolia (sun. Aronia pyrifolia)
Morella pensylvanica

I don't believe the MA nursery industry was solely responsible for creating the list of invasives to be banned that was submitted to legislature-

It was the MA nursery industry that lobbied to be able to continue propagating banned invasives so they could continue exportation to other states to avoid suffering losses. Wasn't that nice? As an aside, I'm really sorry that those nurseries were allowed to continue propagating some of the most highly invasive of species to be sold in other states that weren't quick enough to react. My state, where JB was documented as being equally invasive, was one of those states that didn't react fast enough. Over the last few years I've noticed row after row after row of barberries being sold. And people bought them and planted them.

Umm, I don’t believe Iris pseudacorus or I. ensata are sterile.

South Hamilton, MA

Each is not sterile, they are sterile when crossed with each other. I mean the resulting plants.

The Bradford Pear is a shining example of a "sterile" plant that was anything but sterile in the presence of other Calleryana pears.

South Hamilton, MA

Well if they are not sterile so much work is beign done with them we will certainly find out.

somewhere, PA

Iris Ensata isn't invasive is it? Just I. Pseudocorus

South Hamilton, MA

Right--I. ensata not invasive. My statement that a cross between the 2 was read that each was sterile. Only such a cross is supposed to be sterile. I. pseudacorus is the invasive one as the seed & seedpods float.

somewhere, PA

Good. I did a quick google and found the same. I've been growing I. Ensata from
seed and putting them around my spring & pond. I definitely have found I. Pseudacorus
is a spreader. I had it at my last house in a dry shady area - barely survived there.
Here I planted it by the pond and it sprang into action. I've got it corralled and am
sure to cut the flower head off. I'll probably dig it out completely this year. Rather
not fight it and chance it getting away from me.

I have a barberry on my property - a pretty dark purple one. And I've found the green
plain ones in the wooded area by the pond. I need to dig those all out. Nasty business
with the rocky soil and spiney plant! (I did not plant the original barberry - it was here
when I bought the place)

The vast majority of plants aren't invasive and then there are a few that probably should be formally identified as a noxious weed or as being invasive that aren't. It happens.
Reproduction of I ensata is both asexual and sexual. Even though all the stand-by and newly released cultivars may not come true to type from seed, they are all capable of reproduction. One of the reasons why I. ensata is so very popular is that it grows very well in garden soils even though it's more of a marginal species that can survive quite nicely in standing water. I. ensata is highly adaptable just like I. pseudacorus. I've got several ponds here as well as wetlands so it's definitely not a plant for me as it would take off. Here's your I. ensata. If you look at the listing for it, there's an "I" for introduced so it's not native to the continent of NA but please know there are many mild mannered non native plants available. What's interesting is that the map shows it documented as having "naturalized" (escaped cultivation) in some of Canada; as well as the states of CT, MD, NC, PA, and VT.
I'm familiar with the plant. There are small pockets of them in my state although ensata has not reached the numbers in the wild that I. pseudacorus or I. germanica have reached. Could be that ensata was a later ornamental introduction as opposed to pseudacorus that was an earlier introduction to the US. One thing, they all contain irigenin so I wouldn't plant them near any livestock. With what I've seen, I'd be inclined to feel that I. ensata would be one to watch just like I. pallida, I. sibirica, and I. flavescens.

South Hamilton, MA

I don't know why ensata would be thought native--it came from Japan and like siberians likes acid soil. the northern native irises are I.versicolor, cristata & setosa. The bearded irises came from Europe. I. pseudacorus and its floating seeds is why it spreads.

Who knows why so many people think it's native. Maybe because they're sold with only the genus and cultivar name so even the people who would want to be able to look it up to check it out aren't able to do so and just assume it's native? I used to make that mistake all the time and all of my friends have made the same mistake that's for sure. Cultivars can be tricky when the epithet isn't printed on the tag.

They're both a problem for those who don't want them around here because when they're not blooming they sort of look like cattails and I. versicolor. Best to go after them when they're in bloom to make sure you don't accidentally rip out the wrong plant.

Okeechobee, FL(Zone 10a)

We have bug files , we have plant files, a botanary, Insectipedia, gardenology, etc.
What do you think of 'Invasive plants file'?
Possibly giving each state two list. Plants not to send any where else and plants not to seek.
Just thinking.

Hello LadyS,
I don't believe that suggestion would be embraced at this time. I would love to have such a gardening tool particularly with the future launch of a DG auction site though. It's hard sifting through all the old faithfuls ferreting out this type of information and it would be nice to have it at one's finger tips however I believe they've got too many other irons in the fire right now.

South Hamilton, MA

The first thing to do is know your own state list of banned plants. We were finally able to get such a list from MA on a state file. the longtime bans are usually known to the nursery trade. They do sometimes shoot themselves in the foot. Wayside lists Berlin Tiger and Holden's Child as pseudacorus.
They are not--they have some in the background but are hybrids which rarely produce seeds or if so very difficult to germinate. By not wanting to take up space on the listing, they mess up a chance to sell them in states where pseudo itself is banned.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

There's a checkbox within each entry in PlantFiles to denote potentially invasive or noxious status. If you come upon plants that should have that notation but don't (and you don't see "unknown, tell us" link for that section), please use the red "report an error" link while viewing the entry to let our PlantFiles editors know it should be added to the description.

You can then use the Advanced Search within PlantFiles to pull up a list of invasive plants. (Ideally, we will eventually offer the ability to use this checkbox to screen OUT plants from your list of selections, but that will take some programming magic to do ;o)

Okeechobee, FL(Zone 10a)

Yes I am aware that I can find a plant and then see if it's checked invasive.
Sometimes it takes reading the comments. My recent comment about Root Beer Plant being one of the first to be negative because it creates it, own underground network.
However it would be nice to have an entire 'invasipedia' so to speak.
I made some terrible mistakes when I started getting plants for my yard here in north Florida.

West Pottsgrove, PA(Zone 6b)

Apparently nothing in the genus Rosa can be marked as invasive in Plantfiles, including Multiflora Rose.

South Hamilton, MA

Maybe it can't be marked, but Multaflora rose is on the MA banned list. My husband chops they down when he can, even between snow storms in Jan.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

claypa, that's true. I hadn't thought about it, but roses have their own unique detail checkboxes. At the time we solicited input on what those details should be, invasiveness wasn't raised as a consideration, probably because everyone was concentrating on the cultivated varieties.

I noticed that several of the comments do indicate its invasiveness, especially in the regions where it is a problem.

The focus on cultivated varieties of many plants was very different than it is today, that's for sure.

For a mutitude of reasons, many gardeners like to believe their cultivated variety of a plant such as Rosa multiflora, Iris pseudacorus, Lythrum salicaria, or even a cultivar of any of these: Tamarix aphylla, T. chinensis, T. gallica, T. parviflora, or T. ramosissima is always exempt from being invasive because it’s not specifically listed anywhere. I've heard so many gardeners claim their specific cultivated variety isn’t invasive at all because they couldn’t find it at the USDA site. Over the years, I've even read threads here where other gardeners are sharing with each other something to the effect of cultivated varieties of invasive species aren't really invasive because they are a cultivar. Interestingly enough, the reverse is appearing to hold true. I'm finding cultivated varieties of invasives and noxious weeds routinely being lumped in with the straight species based on the knowledge that commercially available cultivars/hybrids can cross pollinate with wild populations and produce viable seed.

Example- where I garden (Illinois) Lythrum salicaria (Purple Loosestrife) is banned. Multiflora Rose and Japanese Honeysuckle could have both easily been used as an example. Lots of people were selling "sterile" PL cultivars. Many PL cultivars were/are being offered in part due to misinformation. I suspect most selling the cultivars didn’t realize they were banned although there had to have been some feigning ignorance so they could sell them as PL is quite popular and in demand. The nursery where a friend of mine works supposedly had a big display sign that advertised their Purple Loosestrife plants were sterile and to beware of plants sold elsewhere that weren't "sterile" as recently as 2 years ago. I kid you not, she told me they had used the word “beware”. Concern- we’ve known for a while that sterile doesn't exactly mean infertile. Quite the contrary actually as "sterile" cultivars that are marketed/advertised as such can be more than capable of producing viable seed when functioning as either a male or female parent in cross breeding with other cultivars as well as the straight species. This might be why the word “sterile” began disappearing from ads in the past few years. I can’t help but think “hybrid vigor” because that’s probably what our legislature is thinking these days. To this day, one can still find plants such as the following being sold in my area:
Purple Lythrum
‘Morden Pink’ Loosestrife
Spiked Loosestrife
Lythrum ‘Dropmore Purple’
“The Rocket”

I saw at least two PL cultivars being sold under confusing names for sale last summer at the nursery where my girlfriend worked when I visited her and that nursery will probably have others for sale this coming season. I must admit, I couldn’t help myself and asked one of their workers if one wasn’t invasive. I was told the plant I had in my hand was a cultivar so it wasn’t invasive and that they didn’t sell the invasive kind any more. Fortunately, we don’t see the sale of banned plants or their cultivars nearly as frequently as we used to around here because awareness is being heightened.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

I think all the PF entries for Lythrum salicaria and L. virgatum (including those for 'Morden's Dream' 'Morden's Pink' and 'The Rocket') are each flagged as a potentially noxious weed/invasive.

South Hamilton, MA

The Loosestrife is a huge problem here, particularly on the small river through town which has a very low slow rate of descent. It has been acknowledged as such just in the last 6 or 7 yrs. MA has been slow in banning plants but finally went through with it.

The PlantFiles are relied upon by tens of thousands, no probably hundreds of thousands. My bet would be considerably more people find their way to the PlantFiles than to the USDA's site so it's nice to see some gardeners have picked up on the connection and flagged appropriate entries while others have posted comments denoting invasiveness for anyone interested in that type of information. One that I spotted that had un-flagged cultivars was Iris pseudacorus and not all cultivars of PL or I. pseudacorus have entries. It happens. No tool can be perfect.

Here’s a partial list of popular PL cultivars-
Anyone in a position to add them to the PlantFiles, they're at the end of the very first paragraph ;)

PL is a tremendous cause for concern here too. The plant has gone terrestrial in some areas.

Way down in the PlantFiles listing for Purple Loosestrife is a comment by a Karenn dated Jan 8, 2004 , “I believe that Illinois has (or is in process of) banning the sale of ALL varieties of lythrum - hybrid or not!”
Unbeknownst to this member, sale of all cultivars and hybrids was already banned unless they could, “be demonstrated by published or current research not to be an exotic weed as defined in Section 2.”
Fine print, gets us every time. Myself included. Most weed laws have fine print, we just have to find it.

More fine print excerpted from same link above-
Lythrum salicaria as well as its cultivars and hybrids can still be sold in IL however one must have “a permit issued by the Department of Natural Resources. Such permits shall be issued only for experiments into controlling and eradicating exotic weeds or for research to demonstrate that a variety of a species listed in this Act is not an exotic weed as defined in Section 2.”

Although Illinois isn’t currently appearing in the line up of noxious weed information (no tool is perfect), here are links to fine print for PL of other states, scroll down-
Point in context, at least the PlantFiles has an entry giving people from Illinois the heads up that it may be a noxious weed or invasive.

Considerable taxonomic confusion exists so the biological debate continues over PL in pockets but for the most part, many states readily acknowledge that “Named cultivars once though to be non-invasive are now known to cross and develop strains which spread.” There’s much evidence of hybridization out there for the taking these days so there are more people who do realize Lythrum salicaria, and its cultivated varieties, can alter ecosystems.

Okeechobee, FL(Zone 10a)

These are a few most recent that I didn't know were invasive.
Root Beer plant, coveted for cooking in Mexico
Yellow daisy plant is a root and shoot plant.
Then Bleeding heart
Mimosa tree.
china berry tree
It takes a whole lot more work to remove than to plant.

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