Berberis wilsoniae Hemsl.

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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

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'Berberis wilsoniae' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2024-06-18.

Other taxa in genus


(pl. apices) Tip. apical At the apex.
Fleshy indehiscent fruit with seed(s) immersed in pulp.
With an unbroken margin.
Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
Grey-blue often from superficial layer of wax (bloom).
Inversely lanceolate; broadest towards apex.


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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Berberis wilsoniae' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2024-06-18.

An elegant, deciduous (sometimes partially evergreen) shrub 3 to 4 ft high, of spreading habit, and usually more in diameter; branches comparatively thin, reddish brown, slightly downy, armed with slender three-parted spines, 12 to 34 in. long, and red when young. Leaves as a rule less than 1 in. long, mostly oblanceolate, and either rounded or sharply pointed at the apex, otherwise entire, or occasionally three-lobed at the apex; glabrous, conspicuously veined, grey-green above, somewhat glaucous beneath. Flowers small, pale yellow, borne two to six together in fascicles or short racemes. Berries roundish, coral- or salmon-red, somewhat translucent, borne very abundantly. Bot. Mag., t. 8414.

Native of W. China; discovered and introduced about 1904 by E. H. Wilson, after whose wife it was named. This is one of the most charming introductions from W. China, of neat yet elegant habit, and most noteworthy for its prettily coloured, abundant berries and autumnal tints.

B. wilsoniae and its allies have contributed to the complex swarm of hybrids discussed under B. × carminea and B. × rubrostilla. Two seedlings which are near to the species in their botanical characters may be mentioned here. They are ‘Comet’, exceptionally profuse in berry, and the dwarf ‘Tom Thumb’, which makes a charming rock garden shrub, with vivid autumn foliage.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

The true species has become rare, but was reintroduced by Roy Lancaster from the hills above Kunming in Yunnan in 1980. The plants made low mounds or hummocks, and the seedlings raised promise to be of similar habit. In this respect at least they agree with var. favosa (W. W. Sm.) Ahrendt, which was described from a flowering specimen collected by Kingdon Ward on the border between Burma and Yunnan in 1914, and not introduced. It is interesting that both the var. favosa and the Kunming plants were growing on limestone rock.

var. stapfiana (Schneid.) Schneid.

B. stapfiana Schneid

A shrub with gracefully arching branches, differing from the type in its taller growth (to about 5 ft high) and its glabrous twigs. Leaves oblanceolate, acute or obtuse or rounded at the apex, but always with a mucronate tip, {1/2} to 1 in. long, {1/12} to {3/16} in. wide. Fruit ellipsoid. Bot. Mag., t. 8701.Native of W. China. According to Schneider’s account it was introduced to Kew from Maurice de Vilmorin’s collection at Les Barres, but there appears to have been an earlier introduction from St Petersburg in 1896, possibly from seed collected by Potanin in 1893. It is also in cultivation from Wilson’s seed distributed by the Arnold Arboretum in 1909. A charming shrub of free, graceful growth.

var. subcaulialata (Schneid.) Schneid.

B. subcaulialata Schneid

This variety, like the preceding, differs from the type in the glabrous shoots, but the fruits are globose, ripening in November, and the leaves larger than in var. stapfiana. Introduced to the Vilmorin collection at Les Barres by the French missionary Soulié; and to this country by Wilson under W. 1267. The plants distributed by Veitch under the name B. coryi are usually considered to belong to var. subcaulialata. In 1938 Dr Yü re-introduced this variety; the very similar var. guhtzunica (Ahrendt) Ahrendt was introduced by him at the same time.