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A deciduous tree 50 to 60 ft high, the trunk armed with great, branched, terete, very stiff spines; shoots glabrous, ribbed, more or less warted. Leaves simply pinnate; leaflets six to twelve, ovate oblong sometimes inclined to obovate, 1 to 31⁄2 in. long, 1⁄2 to 11⁄2 in. wide, shallowly toothed, glabrous except on the main and individual very short stalks. Flowers in downy, stalked, simple, slender racemes 3 to 6 in. long. Pods 6 to 13 in. long, about 11⁄2 in. wide, blackish and long-persistent.
G. macracantha was described in 1800 from a tree growing in the garden of the Paris Museum. It was probably raised from seeds collected in Central China and is usually considered to be a native of that region.
The example at Kew, pl. 1946, measures 23 × 11⁄4 ft at 4 ft (1978).