Shrubs, evergreen, 1-2 m. Stems monomorphic, without short axillary shoots. Bark of 2d-year stems tan, glabrous. Bud scales 11-13 mm, persistent. Spines absent. Leaves 5-9-foliolate; petioles 2-8 cm. Leaflet blades thick and rigid; surfaces abaxially smooth, shiny, adaxially dull, gray-green; terminal leaflet stalked, blade 6.5-9.3 × 4-7 cm, 1.3-2.3 times as long as wide; lateral leaflet blades ovate or lance-ovate, 4-6-veined from base, base truncate or weakly cordate, margins plane, toothed, with 2-7 teeth 3-8 mm tipped with spines to 1.4-4 × 0.3-0.6 mm, apex acuminate. Inflorescences racemose, dense, 70-150-flowered, 5-17 cm; bracteoles ± corky, apex rounded to acute. Berries dark blue, glaucous, oblong-ovoid, 9-12 mm, juicy, solid.
Phenology: Flowering fall–winter (Dec–Mar).
Habitat: Open woodlands and shrublands
Elevation: 100-500 m
Introduced; Ala., Ga., N.C., Va., native, Asia (China).
Berberis bealei is commonly cultivated; although it rarely escapes, it is locally naturalized in the southeastern United States. It is resistant to infection by Puccinia graminis.