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An evergreen shrub to 12 ft high; stems glabrous; spines three-parted, up to 1 in. long. Leaves three to five together in tufts, glabrous, leathery, 1 to 21⁄2 in. long, oval or obovate, lustrous green above, often grey-white beneath, the apex and upper two-thirds set with slender, spiny teeth. Flowers variously arranged at each leaf-cluster, some being solitary on their stalks and in fascicles, others on an umbel 1 in. long; they are citron-yellow, and about the average size of barberry flowers. Fruit black, but covered with an abundant greyish bloom, 1⁄4 in. long.
Introduced to France from Yunnan, China, by the Abbé Delavay in 1894, this species reached Kew three years later. It is a promising shrub, somewhat similar in general appearance to B. glaucocarpa, but quite distinct in the arrangement of its flowers. It commences to bloom at the end of April. It has reached a height of about 10 ft in the R.H.S. Garden at Wisley.
This species is very variable in such characters as the colour of the leaf-undersides, which may be white or green; the number of spine-teeth on the leaf-margins; and the length of the pedicels. Nine varieties are distinguished by Dr Ahrendt, but these are based on a very limited range of herbarium specimens and probably mostly linked by intermediates. In the new introduction by Roy Lancaster from Yunnan (as seen) the leaves are green beneath, though intensely white there on the juvenile foliage, and finely spine-toothed throughout; flowers pale yellow.