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A deciduous tree up to 60 ft high; young shoots clothed with silky hairs. Leaves narrowly ovate-lanceolate, mostly rounded or even slightly heart-shaped at the base, fine-pointed, simply or doubly toothed; 11⁄2 to 31⁄2 in. long, 5⁄8 to 11⁄2 in. wide; glabrous above, silky-hairy on the midrib and veins beneath; veins in twelve to sixteen pairs; leaf-stalk 1⁄4 to 3⁄8 in. long, very downy. Fruit-clusters up to 2 in. long, slender; the bracts obliquely ovate, coarsely toothed, 1⁄2 to 5⁄8 in. long; main-stalk silky-hairy. Nutlet dark brown, ovoid, six- to eight-ribbed, downy.
Native of Central and W. China; discovered by Henry, introduced by Wilson to the Arnold Arboretum in 1907, thence to Kew in 1912. It is very hardy, very leafy and vigorous there and makes a handsome tree 40 ft high with a girth of 2 ft (1967). It is one of the true hornbeams (as distinct from Distegocarpus) so that the nutlet is not covered by the bracts, but partly exposed.
This species was described by Bean (B507, S145) and Krüssmann (K280).
Var. simplicidentata differs from var. henryana in that its leaves are basically ovate, 2–3.5 × 1–3 cm, with mucronate, serrate margins. The leaves of the type variety are basically lanceolate, 5–8 × 2–3 cm, with serrated margins. Rushforth 1985. Distribution CHINA: eastern Gansu, western Hubei, southern Shaanxi. Habitat Temperate forest between 800 and 2100 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 6. Conservation status Not evaluated. Taxonomic note This variety is not maintained by Flora of China.
As seen at Kew and the JC Raulston Arboretum, this taxon makes a small, upright and apparently fast-growing tree (at the JC Raulston Arboretum, 5.5 m since 1998 when the tree was obtained from Heronswood Nursery; at Kew, 4.5 m since 1999). The leaves are small and neat, emerging bronzed, with a glossy band in the centre of each inter-veinal section caused by the presence of a strip of appressed hairs. This, together with the strong venation, gives the leaf a very attractive look. The tree at Kew was grown by Lord Howick from seed supplied in 1995 from Tianshui in Gansu by the Qingpu Paradise Horticultural Company (possibly a short-lived commercial enterprise of the Shanghai Botanic Garden); there are others from the same source at Howick. Carpinus henryana var. simplicidentata has been hardy at Rogów since 1997 (P. Banaszczak, pers. comm. 2007).