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A deciduous shrub of bushy, rounded habit, 5 to 10 ft high, suckering from the base like a hazel; young shoots downy. Leaves alternate, broadly ovate, heart-shaped at the base, short-pointed, 1 to 3 in. long, 3⁄4 to 2 in. wide, sharply, irregularly, and often doubly toothed, upper surface dull green with scattered hairs, lower surface much more downy; stalk 1⁄4 in. or less long. Flowers unisexual, both sexes on the same bush. Male catkins 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. long, slender, nodding, produced from the joints of the old wood. Female inflorescence terminal on the new shoot of the year, erect, very short. Fruit a conical nut enclosed in an outer covering or husk (involucre), which is also narrowly conical, 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. long, downy, terminating in three slender points. At first this husk completely encloses the nut, but finally liberates it by splitting down one side. The fruits are crowded eight to twelve together in a cluster at the end of the twig.
Native of N. China and Mongolia; discovered by the Abbé David, after whom it is named. It was introduced from the mountains near Peking to Kew, in 1883, by Dr Bretschneider. It is an interesting little shrub, with the habit and foliage of a hazel, to which it is closely akin, but differs much in the shape of the nut. It has no particularly ornamental qualities to recommend it, but is interesting and quite hardy.