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A large deciduous shrub; branchlets yellowish brown; winter-buds sessile. Leaves pinnately veined, oblanceolate, mostly acute or subacute, glabrous above, somewhat glaucous and sparsely downy beneath, 21⁄2 to 5 in. long, 5⁄8 to 1 in. wide, on petioles to about 3⁄4 in. long. Fruits globose, about 1⁄4 in. wide, red.
A native of Japan (main and southern islands), Korea and China; in cultivation at Kew, to which it was introduced from the wild through the Chollipo Arboretum, South Korea, and planted out in 1983/4.
Tree to 12 m, 0.25 m dbh. Branchlets yellowish brown and pubescent, though later glabrous with sparse lenticels. Leaves deciduous, alternate, 4–17 × 1.5–3.5 cm, oblong to oblanceolate, papery, upper surface green and glabrous, lower surface glaucous and glabrous or with some silky hairs, purple-ferruginous when dry, four to eight lateral veins on each side of the midrib, margins entire, apex acute to obtuse; petiole 0.5–1.4 cm long, glabrous. Inflorescences produced with first leaves; clusters axillary, with 10–15 flowers and four caducous bracts. Flowers small, yellowish green, tepals six, slightly pubescent on both surfaces; staminate flowers with nine fertile stamens; pistillate flowers with nine staminodes. Fruit globose and shiny scarlet, pulp oily and fragrant, 0.7–0.8 cm diameter. Flowering May, fruiting October (Taiwan). Liao 1988, 1996b. Distribution CHINA: Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Shaanxi, Shandong, Sichuan, Zhejiang; JAPAN: Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku; NORTH KOREA; SOUTH KOREA; TAIWAN. Habitat Broadleaved forest to elevations of 2300 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 6–7. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration NT449, NT453. Cross-reference S307.
Lindera erythrocarpa is one of the highlights of the genus, capable of forming a true, single-stemmed tree that blazes with bright yellow foliage in autumn. The abundant, clear yellow flowers appear in spring and are followed by heavy crops of red fruits that can be quite ornamental in their own right. It can form a more shrubby specimen (Dirr 1998), but at the Scott Arboretum there is a group of three trees some 10 m tall with clean single trunks up to 15 cm dbh. It is also grown as a single-stemmed tree at Arboretum Wespelaar. It is in relatively widespread cultivation in Europe and North America, and is freely available commercially. The species has been introduced on numerous occasions, Chollipo Arboretum having been a source of material from Korea since at least 1981 (Kew records). Material from Japan is also cultivated (for example, WAHO 841, collected by Warner & Howick in Honshu in 1987), but no collections from China have been traced.