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A deciduous tree 20 to 30 ft (sometimes 40 ft) high, with a wide spreading head of branches; young shoots at first covered with minute down, reddish. Leaves alternate, ovate, with a tapered apex, rounded or cordate at the base, up to 5 in. long, half as wide; coarsely round toothed; glabrous, or nearly so, on both surfaces; with a stalk about one-third as long as the blade; at first reddish, then dark glossy green above, paler and also glossy beneath. The inflorescence is erect and rather candelabra-like and carries as many as ten blossoms, the five heart-shaped sepals of which form a cup-shaped flower 11⁄4 in. long and 1 in. wide; there are no petals, the centre of the flower being occupied by a large vase-shaped, downy ovary with yellow radiating stigmas at the top; the numerous stamens are short (about 1⁄10 in. long) and surround the base of the ovary. The flowers are yellowish or greenish white, but one specimen collected by Wilson in Hupeh in 1900 he has marked as having them ‘blush’. The fruit is a spindle-shaped capsule, downy, 3 to 4 in. long, 3⁄4 in. wide at the middle, splitting into three narrowly lanceolate valves. Seeds winged. Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 53.
Native of W. and Central China, at altitudes of 2,000 to 3,000 ft; introduced by Wilson in 1908. It first flowered in this country in the garden of Capt. and Mrs Desborough at Tulgey Wood, Broadstone, Dorset, in June 1929 and again the following year, but this specimen, which provided the material for the plate in the Botanical Magazine, died in 1931. Wilson considered this species to be of singular beauty of flower and a great acquisition to gardens should it prove hardy. It has, unfortunately, not lived up to its promise and has become very rare. In two other gardens where it is known to have reached the flowering stage – Bodnant in Denbighshire and Borde Hill, Sussex – it died during the last war or shortly after. At Kew, although apparently hardy, it died without flowering. The best specimen recorded grows at Birr Castle in Co. Offaly, Eire; this measures 38 × 23⁄4 ft (1966).