A luxuriant, deciduous climber, the young shoots not downy, but covered with spiny, gland-tipped, somewhat hooked bristles, which give them a very rough appearance. Leaves heart-shaped, slender-pointed, toothed, 4 to 10 in. long, 21⁄2 to 8 in. wide, shining dark green and glabrous above, bluish or greyish green beneath, and downy only in the vein-axils, but more or less glandularbristly, as is also the leaf-stalk, which is from half to nearly as long as the blade. Fruits about 2⁄3 in. in diameter, black, and of a pleasant flavour.
Native of China; discovered by Père David in Shensi in 1872 and introduced by him to the garden of the Paris Museum at the same time. It had reached Kew by 1885, but the plants now in cultivation probably all derive from a re-introduction by Wilson for Messrs Veitch in 1900 (Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 28 (1903-4), p. 393 and figs 83, 88, 104). The seedlings grew very fast, and were 6 to 10 ft high when only two or three years old. The species is variable in its foliage and in the length and density of the prickles on its stems, but as now seen in gardens it is one of the most handsome of the vines and, with its armed stems, one of the most distinct. The leaves usually colour brilliant red in the autumn.
cv. ‘Veitchii’. – A selection by Messrs Veitch from the seedlings raised from the Wilson introduction. ‘This form is unusually bold and handsome, more vigorous than the type, producing a shining, bronzy green colour all through the summer, and in autumn assumes the richest hues.’ (J. Veitch, Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 28 (1903-4), p. 393 and figs 84, 89, as V. armata Veitchii). Gagnepain, in Plantae Wilsonianae, Vol. 1, p. 104, suggested that this might be referable to his V. armata var. cyanocarpa (V. davidii var. cyanocarpa (Gagnep.) Sarg.). This was defined as having sparser prickles, and was described from specimens collected by Wilson in W. Hupeh in 1907 for the Arnold Arboretum.