Category: Shrub - Evergreen
Zones: 6 to 9
Size: 6 to 10' tall but usually seen smaller, 4 to 6' tall, 3 to 4' wide
Growth Rate: Moderate
Exposure: Filtered Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Upright evergreen shrub. Compound leaves, to 18" long with stiff, spiny, holly-like leaflets, dull gray-green above and yellow-green below. Lemon-yellow fragrant flowers in late winter in erect racemes which are 3 to 6" long. The fruit is green at first turning bluish with a gray bloom in clusters like grapes. Can take more sun in the lower zones and may not bloom in full shade. Moist, well-drained soil.
Native to China. Introduced by Robert Fortune in 1849 and named for Mr. Beale of Shanghi, to whom Fortune sent his discoveries until they could be forwarded to Europe. Mr Beale grew them in his garden.
Published in Fl. Serres Jard. Eur. 10: 166 in 1855. Basionym is Berberis bealei Fortune. There is much confusion over the taxonomy but I believe if it is ever resolved, Mahonia bealei (Fortune) Carrière will be the accepted name, unless it is absorbed into Mahonia japonica (Thunb.) DC. Tropicos lists it as the accepted name for Berberis bealei and vice versa!
RHS Award of Merit 1916.
There is a fascinating description of Fortune's discovery of the plant in China which I have reproduced on the Berberis bealei page.