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A semi-deciduous, entirely glabrous shrub up to 10 ft, shoots terete, armed with simple and three-pronged spines up to 3⁄4 in. long. Leaves in axillary clusters of four to six, up to 21⁄2 in. long, 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. wide, narrowly obovate to oblanceolate, the base cuneate, the apex shortly tapered to a small mucro; margins sparsely spiny to entire; slightly glaucous beneath. Flowers in two whorls of three, yellow, 2⁄5 in. wide, borne in pendulous racemes or sometimes panicles 21⁄2 to 31⁄2 in. long; calyx of three whorls of sepals. Fruits ovoid to ovoid-oblong, 3⁄8 in. long, black-purple, but coated freely with a blue-white, waxy bloom. Bot. Mag., t. 9102.
Native of the N.W. Himalaya. It has been in cultivation since the early nineteenth century, but under other names such as B. aristata. It is hardy and beautiful both in flower and fruit.
When the eighth edition was being prepared, a slip in Mr Bean’s description was overlooked. It is not the flowers that are in two whorls of three but their petals, as is usual in the genus. Nor is it really correct to say that B. lycioides is a native of the north-west Himalaya. It was described by Dr Stapf from a plant raised by J. S. Gamble from seeds collected in the Himalaya, probably in the Dehra Dun district, and was thought by Stapf to be a natural hybrid between B. lycium and B. glaucocarpa. It is obviously distinct from the latter in its drooping inflorescences and more elongate fruits. It is not, however, so clearly distinct from B. lycium, the differences given by Stapf being that the flowers and fruits are larger, and that the inflorescences are sometimes compound at the base.
In his monograph, Dr Ahrendt pointed out that the name B. lycioides for this berberis is illegitimate, having been applied earlier to other species. The substitute name B. ahrendtii Rao & Uniyal (1985) is available, but it seems pointless to adopt it so long as the taxonomic position of this berberis is in doubt.