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An evergreen shrub 6 to 9 ft high, with glabrous, pale greyish branches armed with very slender three-forked spines, each fork up to 11⁄2 in. long. Leaves in clusters of two to five, deep green, linear-lanceolate, tapering to a fine point, the margins armed with forward-pointing, spiny teeth; the leaf has a very short stalk, and is 11⁄2 to 3 in. long and from 1⁄4 to 2⁄5 in. wide. Flowers crowded in the leaf-axils at each joint, golden yellow, on reddish stalks of unequal length, the longest 3⁄4 in. long. The outside of the sepals is reddish. Berries 3⁄8 in. long, scarlet, then blue-black.
Native of the mountains of Szechwan, China; discovered by the Abbé David in 1869 and first cultivated in Europe from seed sent by him to the garden of the Paris Museum; later raised by Maurice de Vilmorin from seed collected in all probability by the Abbé Farges. It is an elegant shrub; the specific name refers to the colour of the flower-stalks and sepals. The species is distinct in its narrow leaves and long, slender spines. I first saw it in 1904, in the nursery of Messrs Simon-Louis, near Metz, where it was apparently quite hardy.
A form introduced later by Wilson, and referred to B. sanguinea by Schneider, is considered by Dr Ahrendt to rank as a distinct species, which he has named B. panlanensis. It differs in its smaller, more finely toothed leaves and larger greenish flowers, and was grown in gardens as B. sanguinea “microphylla”. It is a slow-growing shrub of compact habit, to about 6 ft, with elegant foliage.
B. panlanensis, mentioned under this species, is included in it by Chamberlain and Hu. It was in fact originally known in gardens as B. sanguinea microphylla, and it is not unlikely that this garden plant is really the type of B. panlanensis and not the Wilson specimen from the Panlan Shan cited by Ahrendt. It certainly deserves recognition as a cultivar, for it is one of the most distinct of the evergreen Old World barberries, with its neat, matt-green, short and narrowly oblong leaves. It is of compact, fairly erect habit, growing slowly to about 5 ft high, and with its formidable and closely set spines would make an excellent intruder-proof barrier. But its pale yellow flowers are inconspicuous.