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A dwarf shrub 6 in. to 2 ft or so high; young branchlets slender, glabrous, or with a few short hairs near the nodes. Leaves oblanceolate to obovate-oblong, 1⁄2 to 11⁄4 in. long, 1⁄6 to 1⁄4 in. wide, emarginate at the apex, very gradually tapered at the base. Staminate flowers stalked, the pistillate ones sessile; rudimentary ovary of the staminate flowers as long as the inner sepals; style of the pistillate flowers as long as the ovary (in B. microphylla and its varieties the style is only half as long as the ovary).
Native of Central and S. China, where it is found growing among rocks and stones in the beds of rivers and streams. The true species may not be in cultivation and would probably be tender, coming as it does from low elevations where the winters are mild. The plant grown in gardens as “B. harlandii” is not this species but a form of B. microphylla var. sinica and of uncertain origin. It was once grown in gardens as “B chinensis”. The confusion seems to have arisen from the fact that on Hance’s herbarium sheet there are two specimens – one the true B. harlandii and the other B. microphylla var. sinica.