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A deciduous sub-shrubby plant growing 11⁄2 to 3 ft high, the younger parts herbaceous, without down on leaf or stem; young shoots hollow. Leaves alternate, doubly (sometimes trebly) pinnate; 3 to 6 in. long, not so wide, the lower half or third of the main-stalk naked. Leaflets (which vary from seven to eighty to a leaf) obovate or oval, rounded at the apex, entire, the largest ones nearly 1 in. long and 1⁄2 in. or more wide, the smallest 1⁄4 in. long, dotted with translucent oil-glands, shortly stalked or stalkless. Flowers small, pure white, scarcely 1⁄2 in. wide, produced from August onwards in a loose panicle on the current season’s growth and as much as 12 in. high by 8 in. wide. There are four oblong petals with rounded ends and yellow markings at the base. Calyx small, green, four-lobed. Stamens six, sometimes seven or eight, inserted at the base of a cup-shaped fleshy nectary, which is white with the margin divided into small blunt glandular yellowish processes and surrounds the base of a stalk on which the ovary is raised; lobes of ovary and stigma standing well out from the corolla. All these parts, even the petals, have glandular cells.
Native of E. Asia, where it is widely spread from the mountains of N. India to China and Japan. The plant, which is not strictly shrubby, is often found on limestone and grows well on chalky soils. At one time it became rare in cultivation but is now (1966) well established in gardens and hardy enough against a sunny wall outside the Temperate House at Kew. Like the hardier fuchsias, it is cut to the ground every winter in most gardens and best covered each autumn with rough litter or weathered ashes. A well-drained soil is essential.
It is quite elegant, its foliage strongly suggesting a leguminous plant. When crushed the leaves give off a disagreeable odour. According to collectors’ notes the flowers vary from pure to yellowish white in a wild state. The form in cultivation half a century ago is said to have grown to about 11⁄2 ft only and was regarded by Farrer as a plant for the rock garden. As now seen in gardens it attains 3 ft or even more and in this connection it is of interest that Forrest gives 2 to 4 ft as the height of his F. 5093, collected in 1905 on the border between China and Burma. Forms found in dry places in Yunnan and S.W. Szechwan differ from the type in their sessile ovaries and star-shaped, not campanulate, flowers; they are sometimes recognised as a distinct species – B. sessilicarpa Levi. The Japanese plants are sometimes split off as B. japonica (Miq.) Nakai, but the grounds for the distinction are not clear.