Identification of naturalized and cultivated Berberis species in South Africa
While Africa is home to three Berberis species (B. holstii, B. hispanica and B. vulgaris), genera of the family Berberidaceae do not occur naturally in South Africa. However, due to the trade in ornamental plants, a total of 11 Berberis species, 11 cultivars and 8 hybrids were historically and/or are currently cultivated in the country. The current invasive status of most of these species is unknown, but two naturalized Berberis populations were recently discovered. B. julianae was found in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park in eastern Free State province, and B. aristata was found in the Woodbush Forest Reserve in Limpopo province. Since several Berberis species could act as alternate hosts for Puccinia graminis and P. striiformis, a phylogenetic study was conducted to identify both naturalized species, as well as several cultivated specimens. One of the cultivated specimens was identified as B. vulgaris, a species well known for its susceptibility to P. graminis. Knowledge gained from this study will be used to intensify the search for more naturalized Berberis populations, as well as to assess the potential threat to wheat cultivation in the country.