Fire Effects Information System (FEIS)
FEIS Home Page

Mahonia nevinii

Table of Contents


Photo © 2001 BonTerra Consulting.

Sclafani, Christie J. 2012. Mahonia nevinii. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].

On 01 March 2016, the scientific name of this specis was changed
from: Berberis nevinii
to: Mahonia nevinii.


Nevin's barberry

The scientific name of Nevin's barberry is Mahonia nevinii A. Grey Fedde (Berberidaceae) [4,5].

Berberis nevinii A. Grey (Berberidaceae) [3,14]



SPECIES: Mahonia nevinii
In October 2012 an extensive search was done to locate information on Nevin's barberry (see FEIS's list of source literature). The following paragraphs provide details from the available information.

Nevin's barberry is endemic to California, and its distribution is limited to the southern portion of the state [2]. It is known from fewer than 30 occurrences in the foothills of the San Gabriel, Santa Ana, and Palomar mountains [12,15,18]. The majority of occurrences are near Vail Lake in southwestern Riverside County and in San Francisquito Canyon on the Angeles National Forest [17,18].

A few occurrences within the range of Nevin's barberry are a result of cultivation, and there is some uncertainty over which populations are native and which are introduced [15,18].

Distribution of Nevin's barberry. Map courtesy of the Jepson Herbarium [14].

United States: CA [16]

Site Characteristics: Nevin's barberry occurs in sandy and gravelly soils along washes, on alluvial terraces, slopes, and in canyon bottoms at elevations of 900 to 2,000 feet (300-650 m) [4,10,12,14,15,18].

Plant Communities:

Nevin's barberry grows in alluvial scrub, chaparral, coastal sage scrub, oak woodland, and riparian scrub or woodland communities [4,12,18]. See the Fire Regime Table for a list of plant communities in which Nevin's barberry may occur and information on the fire regimes associated with those communities.


Biology and general ecology: Nevin's barberry is an evergreen rhizomatous shrub that is 3 to 13 feet (1-4 m) tall and has stiff, branched stems. The pinnately compound leaves are blue-green with serrate, spine-tipped margins. The inflorescence is a loose raceme with 3 to 5 yellow flowers. The fruits are small and round [4,10,14].

Nevin's barberry is easily distinguished from other members of the genus by its flat, narrow, serrate, pinnately veined leaves; few flower racemes; and reddish fruits (reviews by [17,18].

Nevin's barberry may be long lived (>50 years) [9] and typically occurs in small populations. It has low reproductive rates due to sporadic viable seed production [9,12,15,18]. Propagation records suggest that germination rates are high for viable Nevin's barberry seed without pretreatment. Observations suggest that fruits are eaten by various birds, which may disperse the seed. Nevin's barberry has rhizomes and can sprout after top-kill but depends on seed for reproduction [9].

At the time of this review (2012), little is known about the biology and life history of Nevin's barberry. Further research is needed.

Raunkiaer [11] life form:

Seasonal Development: Nevin's barberry flowers from March to May [14].

Fire ecology:
Postfire regeneration strategy [13]:
Tall shrub, adventitious buds and/or a sprouting root crown
Rhizomatous shrub, rhizome in soil
Secondary colonizer (on- or off-site seed sources)

Fire adaptations and plant response to fire:
According to a review by the US Fish and Wildlife Service [18], Nevin's barberry is a fire-adapted species. Based on observations of postfire sprouting, fruits adapted for animal dispersal, and seed germination independent of fire, Nevin's barberry is likely resilient to fire but requires fire-free periods for germination, seedling establishment, and subsequent population expansion [6,18]. Due to gaps in information on its life history and response to fire, it is unclear what fire-frequency would be best for Nevin's barberry reproduction and population expansion.

Nevin's barberry individuals most likely establish and populations increase during relatively long fire-free periods. In cultivation, Nevin's barberry individuals began flowering 3 to 4 years after germination [9]. Observations of both wild and cultivated Nevin's barberry plants indicate that viable seed production is sporadic, so individuals may require several years to produce viable seed (reviews by [9,12,15,18]). Observations indicate that Nevin's barberry seedlings and immature plants often occur in the shade of other plants, suggesting the need for a relatively long fire-free period to allow for conditions conducive to germination and establishment. Additional observations indicate that as Nevin's barberry matures, it requires more sunlight, suggesting that recruitment into the shrub layer may require a canopy gap (review by [18]).

Mature Nevin's barberry plants were observed sprouting from stumps after fire, and mature plants often have a basal burl [9]. A Nevin's barberry population on the Cleveland National Forest was burned in a wildfire in 1996, after which “vigorous recruitment” was reported from sprouts and seedlings (unpublished document cited in [15]). Nevin's barberry is likely to sprout following low or moderate severity fire. Heavy fuel loads may accumulate if intervals between fires are relatively long, and resulting high-severity fires may cause Nevin's barberry mortality [15].

The Fire Regime Table summarizes characteristics of fire regimes for vegetation communities in which Nevin's barberry may occur. Find further fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".

Further research is needed to understand the effects of fire on Nevin's barberry.

Legal status and management considerations:
Federal legal status:
Endangered [2,3]

Other status and management considerations:
Endangered in the state of California [2,3]
Urban development is the primary threat to Nevin's barberry. The majority of Nevin's barberry plants are located on private lands under proposed residential development. The use of heavy equipment for land grading and road expansion can alter soil composition and structure, destroy and remove vegetation, increase soil erosion, and alter hydrologic patterns, decreasing the quality and availability of Nevin's barberry habitat. Shortened fire return intervals and increases in fire severity may result from urban development and spread of nonnative invasive plants (e.g., Spanish broom, Spartium junceum and annual grass species) [9]; these changes can kill newly established Nevin's barberry plants [18]. Recreational activities and fire management practices including fuel treatments, prescribed burning, and fire suppression also threaten Nevin's barberry populations [18].

Mitigation of development effects is planned in the joint USDA Forest Service, USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, and California Department of Fish and Game conservation strategy for coastal sage scrub [15], and the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan [18]. The Angeles National Forest created a species management guide for Nevin's barberry, which includes continued surveys and monitoring [9,12,15].


SPECIES: Mahonia nevinii
The following table provides fire regime information that may be relevant to Nevin’s barberry habitats. Find further fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".

Fire regime information on vegetation communities in which Nevin’s barberry may occur. This information is taken from the LANDFIRE Rapid Assessment Vegetation Models [8], which were developed by local experts using available literature, local data, and/or expert opinion. This table summarizes fire regime characteristics for each plant community listed. The PDF file linked from each plant community name describes the model and synthesizes the knowledge available on vegetation composition, structure, and dynamics in that community. Cells are blank where information is not available in the Rapid Assessment Vegetation Model.
Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group) Fire severity* Fire regime characteristics
Percent of fires Mean interval
Minimum interval
Maximum interval
California Shrubland
Chaparral Replacement 100% 50 30 125
Coastal sage scrub Replacement 100% 50 20 150
California Woodland
California oak woodlands Replacement 8% 120    
Mixed 2% 500    
Surface or low 91% 10    
*Fire Severities—
Replacement: Any fire that causes greater than 75% top removal of a vegetation-fuel type, resulting in general replacement of existing vegetation; may or may not cause a lethal effect on the plants.
Mixed: Any fire burning more than 5% of an area that does not qualify as a replacement, surface, or low-severity fire; includes mosaic and other fires that are intermediate in effects.
Surface or low: Any fire that causes less than 25% upper layer replacement and/or removal in a vegetation-fuel class but burns 5% or more of the area [1,7].


1. Barrett, S.; Havlina, D.; Jones, J.; Hann, W.; Frame, C.; Hamilton, D.; Schon, K.; Demeo, T.; Hutter, L.; Menakis, J. 2010. Interagency Fire Regime Condition Class Guidebook. Version 3.0, [Online]. In: Interagency Fire Regime Condition Class (FRCC). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service; U.S. Department of the Interior; The Nature Conservancy (Producers). Available: [2015, June 24]. [85876]
2. Calflora. 2012. Berberis nevinii: Nevin's barberry, [Online]. Taxon report 1074. In: The CalFlora database: Information on California plants for education, research and conservation. Berkeley, CA: CalFlora (Producer). Available: [2012, October 24]. [86205]
3. California Department of Fish and Game, Habitat Conservation Division, Wildlife and Habitat Data Analysis Branch. 2006. State and federally listed endangered, threatened, and rare plants of California, [Online]. In: California Natural Diversity Database. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Fish and Game (Producer). Available: [2006, February 13]. [60579]
4. Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 2016. Flora of North America north of Mexico, [Online]. Flora of North America Association (Producer). Available: [36990]
5. Kartesz, J. T.; The Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2016. Taxonomic Data Center, [Online]. Chapel Hill, NC: The Biota of North America Program (Producer). Available online: [maps generated from Kartesz, J. T. 2010. Floristic synthesis of North America, Version 1.0. Biota of North America Program (BONAP). (in press)]. [84789]
6. Keeley, Jon E. 1991. Seed germination and life history syndromes in the California chaparral. The Botanical Review. 57(2): 81-116. [36973]
7. LANDFIRE Rapid Assessment. 2005. Reference condition modeling manual (Version 2.1). Cooperative Agreement 04-CA-11132543-189. Boulder, CO: The Nature Conservancy; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service; U.S. Department of the Interior. 72 p. On file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. [66741]
8. LANDFIRE Rapid Assessment. 2007. Rapid assessment potential natural vegetation groups (PNVGs): associated vegetation descriptions and geographic distributions. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Lab; U.S. Geological Survey; Arlington, VA: The Nature Conservancy. 84 p. [66533]
9. Mistretta, Orlando; Brown, William J. 1989. Species management guide for Mahonia nevinii (Gray) Fedde. Technical Report No. 3. Claremont, CA: Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. 15 p. [+ appendix]. [86208]
10. Munz, Philip A. 1974. A flora of southern California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1086 p. [4924]
11. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843]
12. Stephenson, John R.; Calcarone, Gena M. 1999. Southern California mountains and foothills assessment. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-172. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. 402 p. [35525]
13. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species comprising secondary plant succession in northern Rocky Mountain forests. FEIS workshop: Postfire regeneration. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. 10 p. [20090]
14. The Jepson Herbarium. 2016. Jepson online interchange for California floristics, [Online]. In: Jepson Flora Project. Berkeley, CA: University of California, The University and Jepson Herbaria (Producers). Available: [70435]
15. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region. 2005. Species account: Berberis nevinii. In: Reading room--Species accounts-plants. In: Revised Land Management Plans and Final Environmental Impact Statement: Angeles National Forest, Cleveland National Forest, Los Padres National Forest, San Bernardino National Forest. R5-MB-086-CD [CD ROM]. Vallejo, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region (Producer). On file with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Cleveland National Forest. [86210]
16. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2016. PLANTS Database, [Online]. Available: /. [34262]
17. U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 1998. Endangered and threatened wildlife and plants: Endangered or threatened status for three plants from the chaparral and scrub of southwestern California, [Online]. Final Rule: Federal Register: October 13, 1998. Volume 63: No. 197: 54956-54971. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Pesticide Regulation, Endangered Species Project (Producer). Available: [2012, October 3]. [86073]
18. U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 2009. Berberis nevinii (Nevin's barberry). Five year review: Summary and evaluation. Carlsbad, CA: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office. 30 p. [86206]

FEIS Home Page