Description from Flora of China
Shrubs dioecious, to 2 m tall, spinose. Branchlets opposite or subopposite, rarely alternate, gray-brown puberulent, terminating in a purple-red spine; axillary buds minute. Leaves opposite or subopposite, rarely alternate, or fascicled on short shoots; stipules subulate, persistent; petiole 5-12 mm, puberulent; leaf blade abaxially often turning yellow, adaxially green, ovate, ovate-lanceolate, or ovate-elliptic, 1-4 × 0.5-2 cm, papery to subleathery, abaxially white pubescent on veins or vein axils, adaxially glabrous, lateral veins 2 or 3 pairs, prominent on both surfaces, base rounded or cuneate, margin crenulate, apex obtuse or shortly acute. Flowers yellow-green, small, unisexual, 4-merous, usually 2- or 3-fascicled on short shoots or solitary in leaf axils. Sepals broadly triangular, abaxially puberulent, apex acute. Petals minute. Pedicels 2-3 mm, puberulent. Female flowers with rudimentary stamens; ovary globose, 2-loculed; style 2-fid or cleft to half. Drupe purple or black-purple at maturity, obovoid-globose or globose, 5-6 mm in diam., with 2 stones, with persistent calyx tube at base; fruiting pedicel 2-4 mm, puberulent. Seeds ovoid-globose, ca. 5 mm, abaxially with margined furrow extending over 4/5 of length. Fl. Apr-May, fr. Jun-Sep. 2n = 24*.
This species is quite similar to Rhamnus parvifolia, but the latter differs in having leaves rhombic-obovate or rhombic-elliptic, abaxially with clustered hairs in vein axils; branchlets purple or dark brown, shiny; and seeds abaxially with margined, narrow furrows.
The leaves and bark contain dye used for dyeing tissues.
● Thickets, open slopes; ca. 1800 m. Hebei, Henan, W Hubei, Jilin, Shandong, Shanxi.