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An evergreen shrub of open, spreading habit, with bright red young wood. Leaves two to four together in the axils of stout, three-parted spines, which are 3⁄4 to 1 in. long; 3 to 6 in. long, narrowly lance-shaped, stalkless, glabrous, dark green; the margins cartilaginous, and armed with slender spiny teeth. Flowers brownish yellow, produced in clusters of four to eight from the leaf-axils of the previous year’s shoots; each flower 3⁄4 in. across, solitary on a slender stalk 1 to 11⁄4 in. long. Fruit oblong, nearly 1⁄2 in. long, black, covered with bluish bloom.
Discovered by the French missionary Delavay in Central China, in 1882, this fine barberry was not introduced to cultivation until 1900, when Wilson collected seeds in W. Hupeh. From these, plants were raised by Messrs Veitch at Coombe Wood, which flowered in 1904. The species is hardy, ornamental and distinct.
The buff-yellow flowers of this species, coupled with the spreading habit and red young growths, serve to distinguish it from B. gagnepainii.