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A deciduous, excessively spiny and hairy shrub 1 to 5, but sometimes 8 to 10 ft high, with thick branches completely covered with spines, woolly stipules, and leaflets. Leaves 1 to 21⁄2 in. long, with four to eight pairs of leaflets. The leafstalk is downy when young, slender, spine-tipped, persisting after the leaflets have fallen, and hardening, the older branches thereby becoming thickly furnished with wiry-looking spines 1 to 21⁄2 in. long. Leaflets oblong, 1⁄4 to 3⁄4 in. long, hairy; stipules 1⁄2 in. wide, each lobe ending in a stiff spine, the whole shaggy with long silky hairs. As the branch is completely covered with these overlapping stipules it has quite a padded appearance. Flowers solitary on short stalks, white, 11⁄4 in. long; calyx 1⁄2 in. long, hairy, with five narrowly triangular teeth. Pod 3⁄4 in. long, hairy outside, glabrous within. Blossoms in April and May.
Native of Siberia and Mongolia; introduced from near Lake Baikal in 1796. This remarkable shrub comes from dry desert regions, where the summers are extremely hot and the winters extremely cold. In Great Britain it is most successfully grown at the foot of a warm, dry wall, in well-drained, light soil. The flowers are few and the shrub is not showy, yet it is worth growing as a curiosity.
† cv. ‘Columnaris’. – Of narrowly fastigiate habit. Raised in the Stockholm Botanic Garden.