This section is from the book "Handbook Of Hardy Trees, Shrubs, And Herbaceous Plants", by W. Botting Hemsley. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of hardy trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
Herbs, or erect or climbing shrubs. Leaves alternate, or fascicled from the non-development of the branches, simple or compound, often spinose or reduced to spines. Flowers terminal or axillary, usually racemose, often yellow. Sepals and petals similar, in 2 or more series. Stamens 4 to 8, opposite the petals; anthers opening by valves or slits. Carpel solitary or 3 to 9, 1-celled; stigma usually peltate; ovules 2 or more, basal or on the ventral suture, anatropous, raphe ventral. Fruit a berry or capsule; seeds albuminous. An order of about 100 species, inhabiting the temperate regions of both hemispheres and the mountains of the tropics. Absent from South Africa and Australasia. Astringent properties. This order furnishes many beautiful hardy shrubs, notably Berberis Darwinii and Japonica.