A tall and vigorous deciduous shrub to 12 ft high of suckering habit and with glabrous pale yellow stems; spines mostly single, 1⁄5 to 2⁄5 in. long. Leaves 11⁄4 to 21⁄2 in. long, 2⁄5 to 1 in. wide, oblanceolate to obovate, green on both sides, entire or with a few distant teeth. Flowers in a stiff, stout raceme 3⁄4 to 11⁄2 in. long. Fruits on short, stumpy stalks, oblong to globose, about 1⁄3 in. long, black but covered with a dense white bloom.
Native of the W. Himalaya. The type specimen was collected early in the last century and given by Brandis the name (never published) of B. coriacea, but it seems to have been cultivated as “B. aristata” or “B. asiatica”. In 1926, Stapf (Bot. Mag., t. 9102) remarked on its affinity to B. lycium and B. lycioides and gave it the name B. glaucocarpa (Brandis' name having been used earlier for another barberry); his description was later amplified by Dr Ahrendt.
It is not certain when and by whom it was first introduced, but it seems almost certain that it was this species and not the tender B. asiatica that was introduced (as Lindley records) by Sir Thomas Dyke-Acland in 1832 and used as a hedge-plant on his Killerton estates in Devon (and, we may reasonably infer, on his estates near Minehead as well). For it is B. glaucocarpa, so Mr Hadden informs us, that is today found in hedgerows between Porlock and Minehead and even around Cloutsham on Exmoor. This would also explain why it is still commoner in south-western gardens than it is elsewhere.
B. glaucocarpa has been confused with B. aristata and grown under that name. But it is well distinguished from the barberries of that group (section Tinctoriae) by its fruits, the ground colour being black, though masked with a heavy white bloom. In the Tinctoriae the fruits are red or purple. Its closest relationship is with B. lycium and other members of section Asiaticae.