French Name—Epine Vinette.
Officinal Name—Berberis baccae, &c.
Vulgar Name—American Barberry bush.
Synonyms—Berberis Vulgaris Var. Canadensis of Linnaeus, Michaux, &c.
Authorities—Linnaeus, Michaux, Pursh, Schoepf, several Dispensaries, and Mat. Med.
Genus BERBERIS—Calix free with six sepals or folioles, and three small bracts outside. Corolla with six petals, biglandular at the base. Stamina six, opposite to the petals. One free pistil, germ oblong, stigma sessile and umbilicate. Berry one celled, two-four seeded.
Species B. CANADENSIS—Shrubby, upright, branches dotted, with triple thorns; leaves fasciculate obovate, remote serrulate: racemes nodding or drooping.
Description—A pretty shrub rising from four to eight feet high, with long bending branches, having many confluent dots and some small thorns, often three together. The leaves are crowded and unequal m each fascicle; on short petiols; they are smooth and glossy, oboval, obtuse, with small remote teeth. The flowers are on sleader and lax racemes, either nodding or pendulous; they are yellow, on long pedicels, and rather small. The petals are oblong obtuse, and have each two glands and a stamen at the base. The berries hang in loose bunches, they are oblong and red, smaller and less juicy than in the common garden Barberry of Europe.
History—Berberis is an ancient name, it is the type of the natural order of BERBERIDES. In the Linnean system it is placed in HEXANDRIA monogynia. This species was considered a variety of the B. vulgaris of Europe, till Pursh separated it, and it hardly differs from it. It blossoms in April and May, and ripens the berries in June; but they are sometimes abortive.
The stamina of the flowers are irritable, and bend with elasticity towards the pistil. It is supposed that the vicinity of this shrub is injurious to wheat, and this has been noticed as one of the instances of vegetable antipathy or incompatible vicinity. It is liable to the rust, sterility, and many other diseases.
Locality—From Canada to Virginia, in mountains, hills, among rocks, &c. Common in New-England in rocky fields; rare in the West and in rich soils.
Qualities—The whole shrub (even the root) is acid; in the berries this acid becomes very pleasant, and is probably the tartaric; but mixed with some astringency; the bark is yellow and bitter.
Properties—Antiseptic, acid, subastringent, refrigerant, &c. The berries, leaves, bark and roots, may be used in putrid fevers, dysentery, bilious diarrhea, summer flux, and all kinds of acute inflammations. A syrup, jelly, conserve, &c. are made with them, which prove very palatable, cooling, and beneficial in those complaints, as auxiliary remedies. It has also been used in the jaundice and other diseases; but with less success and certainty. The bark has very different properties: it is tonic and purgative; it has been given in Leucorhoea, aphthes, jaundice, &c. it also dyes of a yellow color.
Substitutes—Red Currants—Pomegranate—Lemon Juice—Cream of Tartar—Andromeda Arborea—Callicarpa Americana—Oxalis—Common Barberry—Tamarinds, and all strong vegetable acids—also Elixir of Vitriol, &c.
Additions and corrections
15. BERBERiS CANADENSIS—Other names Pipperidge bush and Sourberry. In the north the berries are pickled. A tea of the bark is used for indigestion, and an infusion in wine as purgative. The root and bark with alum or lye produce a beautiful yellow dye for leather and cloth.
BERBERIS. Add, barberies are used in Egypt in the plague and violent fevers.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, 1828, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.