Tree to 15 m, though often a shrub in cultivation. Bark grey to blackish brown. Branchlets pubescent to tomentose. Leaves evergreen, leathery, 7–12 × 2.5–5 cm, entire, ovate to oblong or rarely lanceolate, upper surface dark green and glabrous, lower surface pale green and tomentose, three to six lateral veins on each side of the midrib, margins entire, apex apiculate; petiole 1.5–3 cm long, reddish and tomentose. Inflorescence terminal, corymbose, tomentose. Flowers 5-merous; sepals pale green and oblong, petals light yellow and obovate, stamens eight, inserted inside disc. Samaras 2.8–3.5 cm long, yellowish brown when mature, wings spreading obtusely or acutely. Flowering March, fruiting August (China). Van Gelderen et al. 1994, van Gelderen & van Gelderen 1999, Xu et al. 2008. Distribution CHINA: southern Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, northern Guangxi, Guizhou, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, southeast Sichuan, Zhejiang. Habitat Forest between 1500 and 2500 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 8–9. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration NT83. Cross-reference K73.
Acer coriaceifolium is another evergreen entire-leaved maple with a marginal existence in Europe, surviving in mild coastal gardens and greenhouse collections – although one sapling at Furzey Gardens, Hampshire survived –12 ºC in 2006 (Johnson 2007). Seed from the Shanghai Botanic Garden in 1983 (distributed as A. cinnamomifolium) was the first recorded introduction to the West (van Gelderen et al. 1994). It is not known if there have been later reintroductions; its altitude range suggests that collections from its highest locations would be useful. There are trees up to 4 m tall at Tregrehan, but no larger specimens have been located. In North America it has been distributed by Heronswood Nursery, and a young plant obtained from there in 2000 by the JC Raulston Arboretum is doing remarkably well, surviving at least –10 ºC most winters to reach 1.5 m by May 2006. The leaves are sometimes damaged, and the plant may become partly defoliated, but it is surprisingly happy in the North Carolina Piedmont area (as also are A. fabri and A. laevigatum) (T. Lasseigne, pers. comm. 2007). In North Carolina the buds break in very early spring (T. Alderton, pers. comm. 2007), which may be a problem where late frosts are regular. The foliage is a dull pale green (darker when grown in shade), with distinct tomentum below when young, although this seems to disappear as the leaf matures, to leave a grey underside.