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Tree to 20 m. Bark grey. Branchlets dark brown to grey and pubescent. Leaves deciduous, 2.5–7.5 × 2–2.5 cm, shape extremely variable, ovate to oblong to lanceolate, upper surface glabrous (slightly villous when young), lower surface veins villous, tufts of hair present in the vein axils, 12–16 secondary veins on each side of the midvein, margins irregularly double-serrate, teeth mucronate, apex acute to acuminate; petiole somewhat villous, 0.6–1 cm long. Monoecious; staminate inflorescences catkin-like; pistillate inflorescences catkin-like, pedunculate, 4–7 × 2.5–3 cm, villous. Flowers inconspicuous; bracts imbricate, ovate, papery, 1.3–1.5 × 0.6–0.8 cm, with five veins, margins irregularly serrate or lobed. Fruit a nutlet with longitudinal ribs. Flowering May to June, fruiting July to September (China). Rushforth 1985, Li & Skvortsov 1999. Distribution CHINA: southern Gansu, western Hebei, western Henan, southern Shaanxi, Sichuan. Habitat Lower montane forest, in shady valleys between 1000 and 2600 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 7. Conservation status Not evaluated. Cross-reference K280.
Notes made (JMG) on this species at Howick in 2005 use the word ‘elegant’ twice, and the same epithet was applied, in 2006, in notes on the specimen at Kew. The individuals observed are in both cases young, the Howick plants (4 m tall in 2005) having been grown from Shanghai Botanic Garden seed (SBG 93/24), while the one at Kew (3 m in 2006) is from SICH 2058. This was collected in 1999 at 1745 m in the Gwangwu Shan, Sichuan, from trees surviving amidst a failed conifer plantation. Both specimens have a single main stem with spreading branches and weeping branchlets, bearing pointed mid-green leaves. The 10 m tree noted by Rushforth (1985) at Kew has disappeared. At Rogów Arboretum trees from Emei Shan are not fully hardy (P. Banaszczak, pers. comm. 2007).