They are shrubs or small trees growing to 3-15 m tall. The shoots are zig-zagged, with a leaf and two stipular spines on the outside of each kink. The leaves are deciduous or evergreen, oval, 2-10 cm long and 1-7 cm broad, glossy green, with three conspicuous veins at the base, and an entire or bluntly toothed margin. The fruit is a dry woody nutlet centred in a circular wing 1-3.5 cm diameter.Selected species
Paliurus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including the Bucculatrix leaf-miners B. albella (feeds exclusively on P. spina-christi), B. paliuricola (feeds exclusively on Paliurus spp.) and B. turatii (feeds exclusively on P. aculeatus).