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Tree to 15 m. Bark dark grey. Branchlets purplish brown, pubescent when young. Leaves deciduous, 6–9 × 3–4.5 cm, oblong to obovate, upper surface glabrous, lower surface sparsely pubescent along veins and with tufts of hair in axils of veins, 14–16 secondary veins on each side of the midvein, margins double-serrate, teeth minute and irregular, apex acute or acuminate; petiole densely pubescent, 0.7–1.7 cm long. Monoecious; staminate inflorescences catkin-like; pistillate inflorescences catkin-like, pedunculate, 7–9 × 4–4.5 cm, densely pubescent, with a few long hairs. Flowers inconspicuous; bracts imbricate, ovate, 2.5–3 × 1–1.2 cm, with four to five reticulate veins, margins irregularly dentate. Fruit a nutlet with prominent, longitudinal ribs. Flowering May to June, fruiting July to August (China). Rushforth 1986b, Li & Skvortsov 1999. Distribution CHINA: southern Gansu, southern Shaanxi. Habitat Temperate, deciduous forest between 800 and 1000 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 7–8. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Li & Skvortsov 1999.
Seed of Carpinus shensiensis was probably first introduced to the West by Roy Lancaster through his contacts with the Shanghai Botanic Garden, in 1982. This material was collected on the Qin Ling Shan in southern Shaanxi, and specimens from it are growing at Wakehurst Place and at the Hillier Gardens, where it is 6 m tall. Other introductions followed, and it is now available commercially from several sources in Europe. Numerous branches from low on the trunk give it a broad, rounded outline, at least when young. The narrow leaves flush red in spring and change to pinkish shades in autumn (Mallet Court Nursery catalogue 2006).