Barberries Barred in Pennsylvania

Yesterday we got word the PA Dept. of Agriculture added Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) to their list of noxious weeds, meaning plants that can’t be legally sold or cultivated in Pennsylvania. The ban officially took effect on October 8, 2021 and will be phased-in at nurseries over 2 years.

We remember one of the ornamental varieties very well — ‘Crimson Pygmy’ Barberry — from having to dig the small, sharp thorns out of our hands, after coming anywhere close to them. This variety is popular in home landscapes due to its low, compact size, and bright crimson-colored foliage, which creates a lovely contrast with evergreens and other shrubs in garden beds. You can see that attribute illustrated above, in a mixed planting with a Gold Spirea and Dwarf Alberta Spruce evergreen.

Some other ornamental varieties of Barberry are known for their marbled new growth or bright yellow foliage. Some varieties even exhibit beautiful Fall colors. (Video: Shearing Rosy Glow Barberry)

It now appears they will be a ‘dying breed‘ here in the Commonwealth (Press Release). In addition to disrupting native ecosystems with its spread, it’s also believed that Barberries harbor more black-legged ticks, which can spread lyme disease. Makes sense I guess, since it’s one of the plants whitetail deer don’t usually eat.

“Property owners should consider eliminating the shrubs on their land.”

PA Department of Agriculture

Similar cries have gone up recently for homeowners to remove Privet and Burning Bush. Privet is the old-fashioned go-to shrub for hedges that is seen in the photo below, and Burning Bush (or ‘Combustion Bush‘ as I recently saw it called for the first time) is the one lighting-up western Pennsylvania with bright red colors now. My guess is they will both be around these parts for a long time to come!

I think there are more Burning Bushes around Pittsburgh than Steeler fans, and that’s one heck of a lot!
Bob

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