Nevin’s Barberry

Nevin’s Barberry is today an extremely rare plant in the wild. It is a California endangered plant species and is also listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. There are thought to be less than 250 individual naturally occurring plants remaining. The California Natural Diversity Database reports 21 natural occurrences of Nevin’s barberry presumed to still exist, and a majority of these occurrences consist of less than five individual plants.
While Theodore Payne in his 1941 catalog stated that Nevin’s Barberry, which is known scientifically both as Berberis nevinii and Mahonia nevinii, is “a rare species found only in sandy washes in the San Fernando Valley and now almost extinct,” it is now known to occur or have occurred in Los Angeles County, San Bernardino County, the San Gabriel Mountains, Redlands, Riverside County and perhaps San Diego County. It occurred naturally or was introduced into the San Bernardino Mountains where, according to the forest service, it is still sporadically extant.
Absolutely striking in full bloom, its survival is now dependent on human attraction to it. It is cultivated commercially for sale to those who value it as a landscaping element, making it widely available in the nursery trade. Thus, cultivated Nevin’s barberry plants have been introduced outside of the species’ native range. Nevin’s barberry is found in a variety of different topographical conditions ranging from nearly flat sandy washes, terraces, and canyon floors to ridges and mountain summits. Nevin’s barberry is also associated with mesic habitats and plant communities such as alluvial scrub, chamise chaparral, coastal sage scrub, oak woodland, and riparian scrub or woodland.
On its own, Nevin’s barberry has a low reproductive output. Research suggests that Nevin’s barberry may require long periods between fires for successful population growth. Development affects site topography, soil composition, and vegetation communities, introduces invasive species, increases erosion potential, changes hydrological conditions, and increase the frequency of fire on the landscape, all of which bode poorly for Nevin’s barberry. Recreational activities such as off-road vehicle use and fire management practices have also negatively affected Nevin’s barberry. The plant’s small population sizes and low reproductive output contribute to the risk of the plant’s naturally occurring populations becoming extinct from unpredictable events.
Despite its fragility, the plant appears robust. Of dense growth with somewhat arching branches and gray green prickly foliage, the young shoots are tinged with red. Its foliage is kind of a blue-gray-green with brown-red stems and yellow 1/10 inch spines on the leaf margins. The bushes grow from 5 to 10 feet high and about the same distance across. The blossoms which appear in winter and early spring are bright canary yellow, produced in clusters at the axils of the leaves forming sprays often 2 to 4 feet in length. In summer the flowers are followed by long sprays of brilliant scarlet berries, which come at a time of the year when red berries are scarce, making the plant especially desirable for ornamental purposes. Birds are very fond of the plant’s berries, which make excellent jelly.
Nevin’s Barberry is a very versatile shrub, growing as it does in dry sandy soils without any water other than the natural rainfall. At the same time it adapts itself readily to cultivation and will thrive in any kind of soil, with or without water, in full sun or half shade. It can be utilized for many different purposes, such as planting in masses or as individual specimen plants, for covering dry slopes or in a garden trained up against a wall. It also makes a splendid untrimmed hedge and one that is absolutely impenetrable.
To help prevent the extinction of Nevin’s barberry in the wild, the US Forest Service and the California Deaprtment of Fish and Wildlife have moved to bar disturbance or development on its currently known habitat.
From,,, Wikipedia

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