barberry bär´bĕr˝ē [key], common name for the family Berberidaceae, and specifically for the spiny barberries ( Berberis species). The family includes perennial herbs and shrubs found in the Northern Hemisphere. The fruit is often a colorful, winter-persistent berry. The spiny barberries are primarily Asian in origin. B. vulgaris, the common barberry, is naturalized in the United States and is often cultivated for hedges, but it is a host for one stage of wheat rust , a fungal pathogen that destroys the wheat plant. The Japanese barberry ( B. thunbergii ) is resistant. Other members of the family are the blue cohosh or papooseroot ( Caulophyllum thalictroides ), the May apple (genus Podophyllum ), and the Oregon grape ( Mahonia aquifolium ), an evergreen shrub that is the floral emblem of Oregon. The edible berries of these three are sometimes used for condiments and jellies. A compound derived from barberry, berberine, is used as an antibacterial agent. The May apple was used as a medicinal by various Native American groups, and two semisynthetic podophyllotoxins, etoposide and teniposide, are used in cancer chemotherapy. The barberry family is classified in the division Magnoliophyta , class Magnoliopsida, order Ranunculales.
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