BACKGROUND: Non-host resistance (NHR) presents a compelling long-term plant protection strategy for global food security, yet the genetic basis of NHR remains poorly understood. For many diseases, including stem rust of wheat [causal organism Puccinia graminis (Pg)], NHR is largely unexplored due to the inherent challenge of developing a genetically tractable system within which the resistance segregates. The present study turns to the pathogen's alternate host, barberry (Berberis spp.), to overcome this challenge. RESULTS: In this study, an interspecific mapping population derived from a cross between Pg-resistant Berberis thunbergii (Bt) and Pg-susceptible B. vulgaris was developed to investigate the Pg-NHR exhibited by Bt. To facilitate QTL analysis and subsequent trait dissection, the first genetic linkage maps for the two parental species were constructed and a chromosome-scale reference genome for Bt was assembled (PacBio + Hi-C). QTL analysis resulted in the identification of a single 13 cM region (~ 5.1 Mbp spanning 13 physical contigs) on the short arm of Bt chromosome 3. Differential gene expression analysis, combined with sequence variation analysis between the two parental species, led to the prioritization of several candidate genes within the QTL region, some of which belong to gene families previously implicated in disease resistance. CONCLUSIONS: Foundational genetic and genomic resources developed for Berberis spp. enabled the identification and annotation of a QTL associated with Pg-NHR. Although subsequent validation and fine mapping studies are needed, this study demonstrates the feasibility of and lays the groundwork for dissecting Pg-NHR in the alternate host of one of agriculture's most devastating pathogens.