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The Berberis Shrub Base, a Lignotuber

by Bob Harms  email-here

B. trifoliolata subterranean lignotuber, c. 6 x 6 inches. The red line approximates the soil surface.

To determine the root system of a mature B. trifoliolata bush I received permission from the Kopponen ranch in Dripping Springs to extract a larger bush. Previous owners of this ranch had employed buldozers to remove Berberis plants from rangeland, and Viktor Kopponen agreed to sacrifice a plant for my study. I have not extracted a comparably large specimen of B. swaseyi or a hybrid, not wanting to risk destroying them, but my overall impression is:

The root

B. trifoliolata's root has a dark orangish-brown, furrowed bark. Inside, the wood is deep yellowish-orange and radiate — strongly resembling stems.

B. trifoliolata root details.

Extracting the Bush

First I selected a moderately large bush with numerous stems at the base.

Next I removed the branches above c. 6 inches from the ground. This revealed 46 stems of various sizes/ages coming from the ground.

Bush with stems numbered in red. Distribution of the red numbers in the image to the left.
Detail of the area outlined in red above.

Then I dug a 1 foot ditch at a distance of c. 1 foot around the stems and then cut in from the sides to remove the bush. The thick main root below the lignotuber went directly down into the soil, very deep I assume. The roots were torn in the process revealing a deep orange color. [Compare the yellow stem cuts above.]

Roots covered with black clay. As much dirt as possible removed.

The remaining dirt was carefully washed away.

View from the top. View from the bottom.