This fairly spiny, large evergreen shrub or small tree can reach a height of 2 – 3 m with a crown spread of 3 – 5 m. New branchlets are bright green in colour, changing to a brownish to pale grey when older. The leaves are shiny green on top with a duller green underneath.
The Lemon thorn has many attractive qualities, from the glossy green leaves to the bright yellow-orange fruit that is carried from February to May. The fruit attract birds and other small wildlife and the spiny branches provide protective shelter for nesting birds. Small, star-shaped flowers precede the fruit and are borne in small clusters.
An ideal tree for a small garden, the Lemon thorn has a non-invasive root system and can be planted within 3 m of walls or paved areas. The tree grows fairly fast, is cold and drought hardy, and can be pruned or trimmed for screening purposes. Due to the sharp spines and dense growth habit, this tree would make and excellent security barrier or hedge. In addition, the Lemon thorn is a good under-storey tree and will grow happily beneath larger trees, providing that it gets enough light.