Berberis repens Lindl.

Creeping Mahonia, Barberry

Leaves in winter

Leaves in winter


Family: Berberidaceae

Genus: Berberis

Category: Shrub - Evergreen

Zones: 5 to 8

Size: To 12" tall and slightly wider

Exposure: Sun, Filtered Sun, Part Shade


Low growing, stoloniferous, spreading by underground stems. Leaves are holly-like, compound, toothed, leathery, blue-green. Deep yellow flowers on small racemes in spring, followed by clusters of blue berries.

From Bot. Reg. A hardy, evergreen shrub, flowering in April ; propagated, but with difficulty, by its creeping roots. Branches short, stiff, erect. Leaves evergreen, sometimes ternate, more frequently of two or three pairs, with an odd one ; leaflets ovate, roundish, with spiny teeth, glaucous on each side, in no degree shining. Racemes terminal, fascicled, diffuse, arising out of scaly buds. Flowers yellow.


Published in Bot. Reg. 14: 1176 in 1828.

Native to the US and Canada.

Basionym of Mahonia repens (Lindl.) G.Don.

Accepted by ARS-GRIN and Tropicos, PlantList shows as unresolved.

From Bot. Reg.: A native of the north-western part of North America, where it was originally found by the party accompanying Captains Lewis. and Clarke in their expedition across the continent of America.

From seeds procured on that occasion plants were raised in America, which have lately been sold into Europe at the rate of twenty-five dollars each. One of these now growing in the Garden of the Horticultural Society afforded our figure and the opportunity of examining the species : it had been purchased of Mr. Michael Floy, Nurseryman at New York, under the name of Berberis aquifolium.

It appears, however, from the researches of Mr. Douglas, that this is not the true B. aquifolium. That species was described by Pursh, in part from an inspection of specimens in the collection of Captain Lewis, but chiefly from the Banksian Herbarium, in which it had been placed by Mr. Menzies, who discovered it on the north-west coast of America. From this last source the drawing in the Flora America: Septentrionalis was also taken. It is probable that the specimens in Captain Lewis's Herbarium were of the plant now under consideration; but it is also certain that those of Mr. Menzies belong to a very distinct species. Hence it seems that Pursh confounded two plants under the same name. That he intended to call Captain Lewis's plant B. aquifolium, there can be no doubt; but it is equally certain, that in consequence of his having figured Mr. Menzies' species, the world now applies the name to the latter. This being the case, it has become necessary to distinguish the former by a new name, which has been suggested by its singular property of creeping at the root; a habit peculiar to this species among Berberries.


My Experience: 

I purchased a 1-gallon plant from Rare Find in December 2011 and planted it in the Big Trees and Birds garden. It had a few leaves at the base which dropped in the winter but in spring it sprouted new leaves from the top of the single stem. It did not like the summer heat and faded fast. It was dead by autumn.

Sources of Information

© 2010-12 Lisa J. Miner