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Tree to 20 m. Branchlets glabrous. Leaves 7–14 × 2.5–5 cm, ovate, elliptic or lanceolate, leathery, largely glabrous, 9–13 secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins entire or shallowly serrate, apex acute and bent; petiole ~1 cm long. Staminate inflorescences catkin-like. Pistillate inflorescences solitary with two to three flowers per cupule. Cupules subglobose, 3–3.5 cm diameter, covered in small brown waxy trichomes, splitting into four sections; bracts spine-like, ~0.7 cm long, united into four to six rings or bundles. Nuts one to three per cupule, 1–1.5 cm diameter. Flowering April to May, fruiting September to November of the following year (China). Huang et al. 1999. Distribution CHINA: western Guizhou, southwest Sichuan, Yunnan. Habitat Mixed evergreen and broadleaved forest between 1500 and 3200 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 8–9. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Liao 1996a; NT218, NT219.
For decades the only recorded cultivated trees of this species were the two at Caerhays, Cornwall, grown from seed collected by George Forrest in Yunnan (F 26848 or F 24758, according to different authorities!). These were measured in 1984 by Alan Mitchell at 14 m (dbh 35 cm) and 15 m (dbh 30 cm), respectively (Johnson 2003), but only one pollarded specimen remains, standing at 5 m tall in 2006 (Johnson 2007). Recent collections have added to the cultivated gene pool, with one tree of KR 3874 planted in 2000 at Lamellen, Cornwall being 5 m tall in 2006 (Johnson 2007). A collection made by Peter Wharton (PW 82) at 1395 m in the Dashahe Cathaya Reserve in northern Guizhou in 1994 has resulted in very fine young trees at the David C. Lam Asian Garden in Vancouver, over 7 m tall and proving to be hardy and vigorous. These are quite likely to reach their potential 20 m (P. Wharton, pers. comm. 2007).