A large deciduous tree with glabrous branchlets. Leaves three- or five-lobed, 3 to 6 in. wide and the same or rather more long, truncate or slightly heart-shaped at the base, undersides covered with a dense, pale brown, velvety down; margins coarsely toothed, the teeth often rounded or blunt. Flowers in erect corymbose panicles, 3 to 4 in. long, appearing towards the end of May. Nutlets and wings of fruit downy, wings diverging at an angle of 90° to 120°.
The tree described is the typical form of A. velutinum and the one that is commonest both in the wild and in cultivation. The species does, however, vary in the degree of downiness of leaf and fruit. It was a form quite glabrous in these parts that Boissier described as A. insigne, and which is now distinguished as f. glabrescens (Boiss. & Buhse) Rehd. Boissier had described A. velutinum in an earlier work, and this name has priority.
A native of the Caucasus and the mountains of N. Persia; introduced to cultivation by Van Volxem, along with A. trautvetteri and the variety described below. At Kew, where the tallest specimen is 20 ft high, A. velutinum is one of the latest of all trees to break into growth.
var. vanvolxemii (Mast.) Rehd. A. vanvolxemii Mast. – Leaves larger than in the species, up to 8 in. across, somewhat glaucous beneath and downy only on the veins. Native of the Caucasus, where it was discovered and introduced to cultivation by Van Volxem, who sent it to Kew about 1873. There is a specimen at Kew 52 × 51⁄2 ft (1960) and two at Westonbirt, one in Broad Drive, the other in Willesley Drive, measuring 71 × 63⁄4 ft (1967) and 66 × 63⁄4 ft (1965) respectively. This variety is also represented in the Edinburgh and Glasnevin Botanic Gardens.
From the Supplement (Vol. V)
specimens (of var. volxemii): Kew, pl. 1873, 59 × 51⁄2 ft (1980); Westonbirt, Glos., Broad Drive (E), 75 × 71⁄2 ft, Broad Drive (W), 82 × 71⁄2 ft (1978), Willesley Drive, 88 × 81⁄2 ft (1981); Edinburgh Botanic Garden, 56 × 83⁄4 ft (1981).