A modern reference to temperate woody plants, including updated content from this site and much new material, can be found at Trees and Shrubs Online.

Berberis darwinii Hook.

Modern name

Berberis darwinii Hook.

An evergreen shrub of dense habit, from 6 to 12 ft high; branchlets covered with a dense, reddish-brown down. Leaves very dark, glossy green, stalkless, hard in texture, obovate, 34 to 112 in. long, the apex three-spined, and with one to several spiny teeth down each side; they spring in tufts from the axils of short, multiple spines. Flowers on drooping racemes 112 to 2 in. long, each flower on a slender stalk longer than itself, deep golden or orange-coloured, tinged with red; petals elliptical notched at the tip. Fruit plum-coloured, roundish oval, the size of small peas. Bot. Mag., t. 4590.

Native of Chile; first discovered by Charles Darwin in 1835, when attached as naturalist to the Beagle on her famous voyage. It was introduced in 1849 by William Lobb for Messrs Veitch, from the island of Chiloe. One of the finest of all evergreen shrubs, it is also perfectly hardy but prefers a not too dry soil and should be given a position sheltered from cutting winds; given these conditions B. darwinii will grow well even on chalky soils. It is in its greatest beauty, of course, during April and May, when laden with its profusion of golden blossom, but it is often very attractive also in early autumn, bearing a large crop of the bluish berries and occasionally a small crop of flowers. In mild and rainy parts of the country B. darwinii attains a great size. At Glenakil in Argyll there was a specimen 24 ft in diameter and 14 ft high; stem girth 4 ft 2 in.

B. darwinii should be raised from seed, which produces forms that vary somewhat in flower-colour and of these some have been selected and are in commerce as clones. Those known as B. darwinii nana and B. d. prostrata, although near to the species in their botanical characters, belong properly to its hybrid with B. empetrifolia (see B. × stenophylla). ‘Flame’, raised by Messrs Marchant, also shows, though slightly, the influence of that species.

B. × antoniana Ahrendt – An interesting hybrid between B. darwinii and B. buxifolia that arose in the Daisy Hill Nursery, Newry, Co. Down, and was originally distributed as B. darwinii macrophylla. The leaves recall the former species in colour and texture, but are almost entire. The flowers, borne singly, are almost 12 in. across.

For the hybrid between B. darwinii and B. empetrifolia, see B. × stenophylla.



Other species in the genus