Berberis chrysacantha C.K.Schneid.
Berberis conferta boliviana (Lechl.) C.K.Schneid.
Berberis weddellii Lechl.
Berberis boliviana is an erect, much-branched, spiny shrub growing around 250cm tall
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials. The fruits are a very rich source of anthocyanins and have been recommended as a natural food colouring that has a range of health benefits[
All parts of the plant contain the alkaloid berberine - this is most concentrated in the roots, stems and inner bark, and least concentrated in the fruits. In small quantities berberine has a range of effective medicinal applications but, in excess, can cause vomiting, lowered blood pressure, reduced heart rate, lethargy, and other ill-effects.
The fruit of most, if not all, members of this genus are more or less edible and can be eaten in quantity since the levels of berberine in the fruit are very low.
S. America - Bolivia, Peru
Steep, grazed hillsides[
]. Dry valleys; at elevations from 2,500 - 4,000 metres.
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Wild
Berberis boliviana is native to higher elevations in the tropics, generally at elevations from 2,500 - 4,000 metres and between latitudes of 20 - 13° south. In the north of its range it is often found in dry valleys, growing in areas where the mean annual rainfall is within the range 840 - 1,000mm, most of which falls in a cool season of around 6 months. In the dry season temperatures can be as high as 28°c in the daytime, but can fall below freezing in the night. In the wet season temperatures are more even, fluctuating between 7 - 14°c[
Species in this genus generally prefer a warm moist loamy soil and light shade but re by no means fastidious, often succeeding in thin, dry and shallow soils[
Fruit - raw or cooked. The red-purple berries are around 7mm long. Anecdotal information is that local people do not typically consume this fruit fresh since it dyes the lips and mouth when the first bite is taken. The fruit contains much higher levels of anthocyanins than most other fruits. These have a range of health benefits and potential medicinal applications, and can also be used as a natural colouring in a range of foods[
The fruits are a very rich source of anthocyanins, substances that have a range of potential health benefits and are prescribed as medicine in many countries[
]. They have been reported to have positive effects in the treatment of various micro-circulation diseases resulting from capillary fragility such as preventing cholesterol-induced atherosclerosis, inhibiting platelet aggregation and improving visual function[
]. Recent studies demonstrated potential benefits of anthocyanins on human health, including cancer prevention effects[
Berberine, universally present in the roots and stems of Berberis species, has marked antibacterial effects. Since it is not appreciably absorbed by the body, it is used orally in the treatment of various enteric infections, especially bacterial dysentery[
]. It should not be used with Glycyrrhiza species (Liquorice) because this nullifies the effects of the berberine[
]. Berberine has also shown antitumour activity[
The plant has sharp thorns and is often grown to make an impenetrable hedge in the Andes of Peru and Bolivia[
The dark purple fruits have been used to wash and care for the hair, like a natural colouring shampoo[
The wood is hard and the stems are made into spindles[
The wood is used for firewood[
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe[
]. Seed from over-ripe fruit will take longer to germinate[
], whilst stored seed may require cold stratification[
]. The seedlings are subject to damping off, so should be kept well ventilated[
]. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out into individual pots and grow them on until large enough to plant out.
Cuttings of half-ripe wood in a frame.
Cuttings of mature wood of the current season's growth, preferably with a heel, in a frame[
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