An evergreen shrub up to 10 ft high, of dense bushy habit; young shoots yellowish grey, angular, glabrous; spines three-pronged, each prong 1⁄2 to 11⁄8 in. long. Leaves in clusters of up to five, obovate to oval, spiny toothed, tapering at the base to a very short stalk, of thick leathery texture, 11⁄2 to 2 in. long. Flowers crowded as many as fifteen together in a cluster, each on a slender stalk 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long, yellow. Fruit oval, 1⁄3 in. long, black, covered with a blue-white bloom, the stalk reddish; style persisting at the top.
Native of W. China; introduced by Wilson in 1908. It has been compared with B. pruinosa especially in the vividly blue-white fruits, but that species has round, not angular, young shoots and its leaves are glaucous beneath. Related more nearly to B. julianae.
var. acanthophylla Schneid. – As seen growing at Kew this is a very striking barberry. The largest leaves are almost holly-like in appearance on account of the two to six large, conspicuous, triangular teeth on each margin; they are up to 2 in. long by 3⁄4 in. wide. I should have thought it distinct enough to have deserved a specific name, but Dr Schneider observes that the red-stalked, blue-black fruits with two seeds closely resemble those of the type.
B. × wintonensis Ahrendt – A hybrid, with the preceding species as seed parent, which arose in the nurseries of Messrs Hillier, Winchester, about 1935. It is a hardy, compact evergreen, with narrower leaves than in the parent, flowering freely in February. The identity of the pollen parent is not known.