A deciduous shrub or small tree of vigorous, erect habit, 8 to 12 ft high, sometimes more; young shoots furnished with reflexed bristles; bark of main stem pale, greyish and conspicuously corrugated. Leaves ovate-lanceolate to lanceolate, tapering more abruptly to the base than to the apex, 11⁄2 to 3 in. long, 1⁄3 to 1 in. wide; dull dark green, paler beneath; more or less hairy on both surfaces and at the margins until late in the year when they become nearly or quite glabrous. Most of the leaves are neither toothed nor lobed, but the lowest leaves on the twigs are frequently deeply and sharply cut. Flowers fragrant, produced in June in erect clusters 2 in. across, terminating short twigs; often three flowers on a stalk. Corolla delicate rosy white, with a slender downy tube 5⁄8 in. long, expanding at the mouth into five rounded lobes, and there 1⁄2 in. across. Sepals five, persistent, reddish, very narrow and linear, 1⁄3 to 5⁄8 in. long, feathered with silky hairs. Bot. Mag., t. 9131.
Native of the N.W. Himalaya. It was introduced in 1847 to Glasnevin and first flowered there in 1852. This is one of the hardiest of the abelias and has grown vigorously in the open at Kew for many years. When it flowers freely (which does not happen every year) it makes a pretty display, and remains interesting because of the curious persistent calyces surmounting the fruits. There is a fine example of this shrub in the Glasnevin Botanic Garden which is probably of the original introduction; it is about 16 ft high, with three stout stems, the thickest a foot in diameter. At Mount Usher, Co. Wicklow, Eire, it is 37 ft high, and it has reached 20 ft in Devon.
A. buddleioides W. W. Sm. – A native of S.W. China, closely allied to the preceding, from which it differs in its smaller leaves and in its sepals, which are only one half to one third as long as the corolla tube, with shorter and weaker marginal hairs. It is, or was, in cultivation under Yü 14481 and Forrest 10500.
A. umbellata (Graebn. & Buchw.) Rehd. Linnaea umbellata Graebn. & Buchw. – Like the preceding species, this belongs to the section Zabelia, in which the corolla is tubular with a flattened limb, the branchlets bristly and the petioles of the opposite leaves swollen and united, concealing the leaf-buds. Leaves glossy, elliptic to lanceolate, 11⁄4 to 3 in. long. Flowers white, four to seven on a single peduncle at the end of the lateral shoots. A native of Szechwan, introduced by Wilson. In the West-Hill nursery of Messrs Hillier it has made a spreading shrub about 6 ft high and 7 ft across. In the related A. zanderi (Graebn.) Rehd. the flowers are pink and the peduncles only two-flowered.
From the Supplement (Vol. V)
Although named by R. Brown, this species was first published by Wallich, so the authorship should have been given as A. triflora Wall. It belongs to the section Zabelia, and in the genus Zabelia (see introductory note above), it would take the name Z. triflora (Wall.) Makino. It was believed until recently that this species had an eastern limit in Kumaon, but it is now known to extend as far east as central Nepal. It is in cultivation at Wakehurst Place from seeds collected by A. D. Schilling in that country in 1979.
† var. parvifolia C. B. Cl. Zabelia triflora var. parvifolia (C. B. Cl.) Hisauchi & Hara; Z. parvifolia (C. B. Cl.) V. Golubk. – A geographical race with much smaller leaves (to about 1 in. long) and slightly smaller flowers. Native of the mountains of west Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Within the section Zabelia, Z. triflora belongs to Rehder's subsection Corymbosae, in which the individual flowering peduncles are clustered at the tips of the shoots. In south-west China this small group is represented by A. buddleioides. It also has a representative in the Tianshan mountains of Soviet Central Asia, A. corymbosa Regel & Schmalhausen, introduced to Kew in 1978, but unlikely to be of much value in British gardens. It differs from A. triflora in having flowers with only four broader sepals.