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A compact, rounded, deciduous shrub; young shoots more or less downy when young, armed with flatfish spines 1⁄2 in. long arranged in pairs at each node. Leaves pinnate, from 3 to 6 in. long, with eleven to twenty-three leaflets, the main-stalk downy, having a few small spines on the lower side, and slightly winged. Leaflets 3⁄4 to 11⁄2 in. long, ovate, stalkless, toothed, with an occasional prickle on the midrib which is also downy above, dark green, but often yellow in the centre when young. Flowers in panicles 2 in. long at the end of short axillary twigs, small, green. Fruits reddish, dotted with glands. Seeds black, about the size of large shot.
Native of China and Japan, this shrub is, on the whole, the prettiest of these hardy species. Its neat, bushy habit and graceful foliage consisting of numerous small leaflets render it quite distinct among hardy shrubs. It most nearly resembles Z. schinifolium, but is easily distinguished by having its spines in pairs and flowers with a single whorl of segments (in Z. schinifolium the perianth is differentiated into sepals and petals). The seeds when ground are used by the Japanese as pepper.