News reports from NBC Connecticut recently came to my attention concerning Japanese Barberry and ticks, both to be feared in their own right. Years of landscaping taught us those barberry thorns are the most likely to break-off in your finger, and are often small enough they can’t be precisely located until days later.
Lyme Disease, which is carried by ticks, is a topic all its own of course. A friend who likes to camp out with his family told me last year that his son had to be treated for the disease, so it definitely needs to be on your radar if you spend much time outside.
The news reports from Connecticut focused primarily on forests with invasive growths of wild Barberry since it spreads so easily by seed. However, they also alluded to various ornamental Barberries that are commonly used as landscape plants.
Indeed, we planted many Crimson Barberries over the years, mostly to introduce that beautiful crimson color into a colorful landscape planting (usually it was Crimson Pygmy Dwarf Japanese Barberry - Berberis thunbergii 'Crimson Pygmy' 'Atropurpurea Nana'). Sometimes we also planted Rosy Glow or Golden Barberries.
The NBC-CT reports on wild barberry and ticks included:
It’s an invasive plant banned from sale in New York and Massachusetts
White-footed mice like Barberry habitat and ticks easily infest and travel on them
Tick infestations are favored by high humidity in shady areas as found in wooded areas
Forests with wild Barberry can have up to 12-times higher populations of ticks
Wild barberry removal from a forest brings about a 50-percent population reduction
Ticks can survive up to 1-year and often attach to deer or other unsuspecting passersby
Autumn presents the highest risk of picking up a tick on your clothing or person
Yesterday’s exercise walk reminded me of these earlier news stories when I came across an ornamental planting in front of a local church which has an improved variety of Crimson Barberry with absolutely fantastic deep crimson color!
Would I rip that beautiful shrub out of my landscape? Heck no! But you decide for yourself and be sure to do “tick inspections” of your clothing and body after being "out in the wilds” or working in your yard. Also be sure to check your pets.
MORE INFORMATION: CDC webpage on ticks