Detecting hybrid barberry and investigating its role in rust epidemiology

photograph of hybrid barberry branch and blossoms
Hybrid barberry (Berberis x ottawensis)


Common barberry and Japanese barberry are both terrestrial invasive species that have spread throughout the United States including Minnesota. These species also readily hybridize, resulting in Berberis × ottawensis, another species which can host cereal rust diseases that threaten wheat and small grain production.

Researchers know that this hybrid is present in Minnesota, but accurate identification is difficult, and a definitive survey has never been conducted. Doing so is important to assess the threat it poses to both agricultural systems and forest health. 

Research questions

  • Where is B. × ottawensis present in Minnesota? 
  • How can B. × ottawensis be identified?
  • How susceptible are hybrids to stem rust, and what threat do they pose to Minnesota’s small grain producers? 

Practical implications

This project will develop cost-effective molecular diagnostic tools to identify barberry hybrids throughout Minnesota. The reliable identification of these hybrids will lead to the development of effective management strategies, including the potential need for a reconsideration of the legal status of all three barberry taxa to protect the small grains industry.


Coming soon


  • Upper Midwest Invasive Species Conference 2022

Research team

Pablo D. Olivera Firpo | principal investigator

Yue Jin | co-principal investigator

Jyoti Saini Sharma | post-doctoral associate

Nicholas Greatens | MS candidate

Les Szabo | researcher


Collaborating organizations

USDA-ARS Cereal Disease Lab

Minnesota Department of Agriculture

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

University of New Hampshire

Framingham State University

1854 Treaty Authority

Osprey Wilds, Environmental Learning Center

Kickapoo Valley Reserve