is a large shrub that branches freely, with woody stems and spiny, holly-like leaves, becoming up to 12 feet high and wide. Leaves are compound, divided into 5, 7 or 9 (less often 3 or 11) leaflets which are colored light green at first, becoming grey-green with age, while the spines and leaflet margins are often reddish. Leaf surfaces are smooth and hairless. Leaflets are slightly longer (up to 1.25 inches) than they are wide. The bark ages to brown or greyish purple.
Flowers are produced in small, open clusters of three to six heads; each has six yellow, rounded sepals and six similar-looking yellow petals, around half an inch long. The sepals open fully while the petals overlap to create a cup-shape, enclosing the six stamens. The fruits are dry, grape-like berries, initially green, maturing to purple.