Berberis insignis Hook. f. & Thoms.

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An evergreen shrub 5 or 6 ft high, with yellowish-grey, round young shoots which are usually unarmed. Leaves solitary or three at a joint, lanceolate to narrowly oval, slender-pointed, the margins set with short spiny teeth about 18 in. apart; usually 3 to 5 in. long, 1 to 134 in. wide; dark shining green above, pale green and conspicuously veined beneath. Flowers fifteen to twenty-five clustered at one joint, each on a stalk about 12 in. long, pale golden yellow. Fruit black, oval, 13 in. long.

Native of the moist forests of Sikkim, E. Nepal, and Bhutan; introduced originally by Sir Joseph Hooker to Kew about 1850. In foliage it is one of the finest of barberries, but it is not one of the hardiest, although it survives ordinary winters at Kew without injury. It belongs to the same group as B. hookeri, but so distinct is it (1) in the size of its leaves (one of the largest amongst the true barberries as apart from the mahonias), which are often solitary at the joint, and (2) in the frequently entire absence of spines, that it is one of the most easily recognised in a difficult genus. There is a vigorous plant in the Edinburgh Botanic Garden 6 ft high and 12 ft across, raised from seed received from Darjeeling in 1923. Although the leaves are sometimes disfigured by frost, it is otherwise hardy and very free flowering. It also succeeds very well in the R.H.S. Garden at Wisley.

Genus

Berberis

Other species in the genus