A deciduous shrub to 10 ft high; stems reddish and downy when young, pale yellow and nearly glabrous at maturity. Spines rather thin, single to three-parted, about 1⁄2 in. long. Leaves in clusters of up to ten, 2⁄5 to 11⁄4 in. long, obovate to oblong, rounded at the apex, tapered at the base into a short stalk, rather glossy green above, greyish beneath, margins entire or with a few spiny teeth. Flowers small, borne at midsummer in a many-flowered erect panicle up to 10 in. long. Berries egg-shaped, bright pink, about 1⁄4 in. long, with a short style. Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 286.
Native of China, in cultivation from seed collected by Wilson in W. Szechwan. It has been regarded as a variety of B. aggregata, from which it differs in its greater size and longer inflorescences. For a long time it was grown erroneously as B. polyantha (see below). It is a very fine species, remarkable for its large and abundant flower panicles. A particularly striking form was shown by E. H. M. Cox of Glendoick, Perthshire, in the autumn of 1953, when it received an Award of Merit. This plant is referred by Dr Ahrendt to var. laxipendula with which it agrees in its lax panicles and fruits larger than in the type, but, in fruit, the panicles are 6 to 12 in. in length. Mr Cox tells us: 'It comes into flower very late for a berberis, August, and the fruit does not colour before November. The best point, however, is the length of time the fruit hangs, till the end of January or early February; it is never touched by birds, however hard the weather. Our plants are from the original collection and are now 10 ft tall and about the same through, with very arching branches.'
var. laxipendula Ahrendt – Panicles somewhat pendulous, up to 4 in. long, usually less, and proportionately broader than in the type, and looser. Berries a little larger, with a longer style. Described from a plant growing at Kew, raised from Wilson 3152. Dr Ahrendt refers the A.M. plant (see above) to this variety.
var. recurvata Schneid. – This has the same garden value as the typical form, from which it differs only in its curved fruit stalks.
B. polyantha Hemsl. – A semi-evergreen shrub 10 to 14 ft high, related to B. prattii, from which it differs in its dark red very narrowly ovoid fruits. It appears to be confined in a natural state to the region around Tatsienlu (Kangting) in W. Szechwan. It is also very rare in cultivation, the plants once grown under the name being B. prattii, but the true species is figured in Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 236, from a plant growing at Maidwell Hall, Northants. The origin of the confusion between these two species is explained by Mr Sealy in the note accompanying this plate.