A graceful, deciduous bush up to 6 ft high, free from down on leaf and twig; with slender branches covered at first with a white bloom. Spines stout, three-pronged, to 11⁄4 in. long. Leaves 1⁄2 to 4⁄5 in. long, obovate, stalkless, green above, covered below with a white bloom, blunt at the apex, margins untoothed. Flowers usually borne singly in each cluster of leaves, to 2⁄3 in. in diameter, of a soft, pale yellow. Berries red, with a white bloom.
Native of Yunnan and Szechwan, discovered by the French missionary Delavay in 1886 but not introduced until thirty years later, when Forrest sent seed under his F. 13224. His plants differ somewhat from the type and are referred by Dr Ahrendt to his var. campylogyna, characterised by a globose fruit tapered at the apex into a bent style (ovoid and style straight in the type), and the very short flower-stalks (in the type they are up to 3⁄5 in. long). The type is also in cultivation, but less common. In either form it is a very striking barberry, the grey and white of its summer aspect turning in autumn to shades of red and gold. The flowers are exceptionally large for the genus, and in this it resembles B. angulosa and its nearer allies. It bears much resemblance to B. temolaica, but in that species the leaves are considerably longer (to almost 2 in.).
var. approximata (Sprague) Rehd. B. approximata Sprague – This differs in its spiny-toothed leaves and smaller flowers; introduced into France from China by the French missionary Farges and thence to Kew in 1897. It was first grown as typical B. dictyophylla and was figured under that name in Bot. Mag., t. 7833.