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A tree 30 to 40 ft high, its trunk excessively armed with formidable, branching, slightly flattened spines, 6 in. or more long; young shoots smooth. Leaves 6 to 10 in. long, simply or doubly pinnate. Leaflets up to twenty on the pinnate leaves, or on each division of the doubly pinnate ones, ovate to oval, 1 to 2 in. long, 3⁄8 to 3⁄4 in. wide, rounded and with a minute bristle-like tip at the apex, very shallowly round-toothed. The midribs and main leaf-stalk on the upper side, as well as the very short stalk of the leaflet, are downy; the leaf otherwise is glabrous and shining green. Flowers green, almost stalkless, densely arranged on downy racemes, 2 to 4 in. long. Pods scimitar-shaped, usually about 8 in. long, 1 to 11⁄4 in. wide.
Native of the region immediately south and south-west of the Caspian Sea; introduced, according to Loudon, in 1822. It is a sturdy tree with much larger leaflets than G. triacanthos, and is remarkable for the size and number of spines on the trunk, which is, indeed, the most formidably armed among cultivated trees. The species is well worth growing on that account. The leaflets are not so large in this country as on trees grown on the continent. At Vienna I have seen them as much as 21⁄2 in. long, by over 1 in. wide. It is much confused with, and usually grown as G. sinensis, a confusion which apparently existed in Loudon’s time. There is an example at Kew measuring 60 × 33⁄4 ft (1968).
specimens: Kew, one of several, pl. 1909, 56 × 5 ft (1981); R.H.S. Garden, Wisley, Surrey, 36 × 21⁄2 ft (1978).