Tree to 30 m. Bark grey. Branchlets green to glaucous or purplish, glabrous. Leaves evergreen, 9–15 × 3–8 cm, oblong to elliptic or lanceolate, upper surface dark glossy green, lower surface glaucous, white or bluish grey, five to six lateral veins on each side of the midrib, margins entire or remotely serrate, apex short-acuminate to obtuse; petiole 3–6 cm long, glabrous green. Inflorescence lateral, corymbose, on two-year-old branches, 2.5–10 cm long, glabrous or pubescent. Flowers yellowish, 5-merous, staminate or hermaphrodite flowers on separate plants; sepals ovate, 0.2–0.3 cm long, petals shorter, stamens 8–12, inserted into the nectar disc. Samaras 3–7 cm long, yellowish brown when mature, wing heavily veined, spreading acutely. Flowering June to September, fruiting September to December (China). Van Gelderen et al. 1994, van Gelderen & van Gelderen 1999, Xu et al. 2008. Distribution CAMBODIA; CHINA: southwest Guangxi, Hainan, southeast Xizang, Yunnan; INDIA; INDONESIA: the only Acer to cross the Equator, ranging through Sumatra and Java to reach Flores; LAOS; MALAYSIA; MYANMAR; PHILIPPINES; THAILAND; VIETNAM. Habitat Evergreen forest between 700 and 2500 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 8–9. Conservation status Not evaluated. Taxonomic note See also Acer pinnatinervium.
In the wild Acer laurinum is a magnificent tree, of true ‘tropical forest’ appearance, given by its glossy evergreen leaves with a long drip-tip. It is indeed a constituent of the Asian tropical forests over a huge range, so it is not surprising that it is extremely tender. It was grown in the Netherlands for some years, but all stock perished in the 1991–1992 winter, so that its extinction in cultivation was bemoaned (van Gelderen & van Gelderen 1999). However, in 1990 seed was collected by Keith Rushforth (KR 1983) in northern Vietnam, and specimens from this source are now established in southwestern England. One at Tregrehan, planted in 1995, has made a very beautiful tree of 5–6 m, that has flowered and fruited since it was only 3 m tall (Hudson 2004), the flowers appearing in autumn. This individual has quite broad leaves, dark glossy green above with a bluish glaucous underside, and so far has retained a greenish stem. Acer laurinum is also in cultivation at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. It is clear that provenance makes a great deal of difference to the survival chances of this species in cultivation, but a very sheltered, favourable site will always be needed. If this is not available it would make a lovely conservatory specimen.