There is some doubt concerning the identity of De Candolle's B. aristata. It would be beyond the scope of a general work such as this to explain or solve this involved problem, and indeed there is no necessity to do so, since all the plants that have been grown in gardens as “B. aristata” are referable to other, better defined species. Some are certainly B. glaucocarpa (q.v.), which is, at least in part, the barberry described under the name B. aristata in previous editions of this work. Other species that have been grown under that name, or been associated with it as varieties, are given short descriptions below. All belong to the subsection Chitriae.
B. chitria Hort., and of Bot. Reg., t. 729 (figure only), not Lindl.; B. aristata of many authors, not DC. – A deciduous shrub up to 10 or 12 ft high, of spreading habit; young shoots finely downy, reddish brown the second year; spines very often simple but sometimes three-parted, 1⁄2 to 1 in. long. Leaves obovate to oval, often narrowly so, edged with fine teeth or almost toothless; 1 to 3 in. long, bright green on both sides. Flowers pale yellow, 3⁄8 in. wide, numerously borne in June and July on loose pendulous panicles up to 6 in. long. Fruits oval-oblong, dark red with a slight bloom on them, 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 in. long, with a conspicuous style.
Native of the Himalaya; introduced in 1823 and long believed to be the true B. aristata of De Candolle. It is a well-defined species, easily distinguished from its allies by its paniculate inflorescence with the flowers in groups of three, but unfortunately it lacks a valid name (see footnote).
B. coriaria Lindl. B. aristata var. coriaria (Lindl.) Schneid.; B. aristata var. floribunda (G. Don) Hook. f. & Thoms., in part. – A vigorous semi-deciduous shrub growing to 10 ft high; stems glabrous, pale yellow when mature; spines three-parted, about 1 in. long. Leaves obovate, 4⁄5 to 2 in. long and 1⁄3 to 4⁄5 in. wide, green above and below, margins entire. Inflorescence a stiff raceme with ten to twenty-five flowers. Fruit oblong, bright red, about 1⁄2 in. long, crowned by the short, persistent style. Native of the W. Himalaya and a fine fruiting shrub.
B. floribunda G. Don B. aristata var. floribunda (G. Don) Hook. f. & Thoms., in part; B. macrophylla Hort. – This species somewhat resembles B. coriaria, from which it chiefly differs in its dark red, bloomy fruits. The cultivated plants were apparently first distributed by Späth's nursery, Berlin, about 1905. Native of the Himalaya. Dr Ahrendt considers that most of the plants grown as “B. aristata” belong here.
B. sikkimensis (Schneid.) Ahrendt B. chitria var. sikkimensis Schneid.; B. aristata var. micrantha Hook. f. & Thoms., in part. – A semi-evergreen shrub to about 5 ft high. It is allied to B. chitria, from which it differs in the grooved stems, the smaller leaves and, most markedly, in the inflorescence, which is a condensed, umbel-like raceme. Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 173. It is in cultivation at Kew and quite hardy there, though little known in gardens.
For the reasons pointed out by Dr Stapf under Bot. Mag., t. 9102, B. chitria Lindl. is not a legitimate name for this species; it is, however, maintained here for the convenience of gardeners until a new name for it is published.