Cercis chingii W.Y. Chun

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Shrub or small tree, ultimate height and girth unrecorded. Based on observations on cultivated plants in the eastern United States, C. chingii has a sprawling habit, with lax stems and forming broad mounds, wider than tall (R. Olsen, pers. comm. 2007). Stems somewhat pendulous. Branchlets greyish, with sparse brown hairs when young. Leaves ovate-orbicular to reniform, 5–11 5–12 cm, slightly leathery, principal veins five, prominent below, sparsely hairy on veins and vein axils, base cordate or truncate, apex shortly pointed or rounded; petiole 1.5–3 cm, subtended by large persistent stipules. Flowers clustered on branches, pink, to 10 mm long and similar to those of other Cercis species. Fruit 7–8.5 c.1.3 cm, thickly leathery, often twisted, not winged, with a straight robust beak, 8 2 mm, often early-dehiscent. Flowering February to March, fruiting September to October (China). Dezhao et al. 2008. Distribution CHINA: Anhui, Guangdong, Zhejiang. Habitat Open forest, scrub. USDA Hardiness Zone 7–8. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration NT243. Taxonomic note Cercis chingii is clearly related to C. chinensis, which has thinner-textured leaves, and tardily dehiscent fruits with wings and small curved beaks (Dezhao et al. 2008).

Cercis chingii is grown in the Asian Valley at the US National Arboretum, where it has made small trees, and has been in cultivation at the JC Raulston Arboretum since first accessioned from Chinese seed in 1984 (Raulston 1986) – although the current specimen there is a replacement. It was highly thought of by J.C. Raulston, and images of it suggest that it is a species of considerable horticultural merit, being not only the earliest Cercis to flower but also highly floriferous. An unnamed white clone is known in the United States (T. Lasseigne, pers. comm. 2007). Cercis chingii can easily be recognised by its large persistent stipules.

The Chinese Cercis chingii – the earliest redbud to flower – has high horticultural merit. Image JC Raulston Arboretum.



Other species in the genus