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Tree to 25 m. Bark yellowish brown, fissured. Branchlets slender and greyish brown, pubescent. Leaves deciduous, 6–9 × 3–5 cm, oblong to ovate or lanceolate, both surfaces sparsely pubescent, particularly along the veins, eight to ten secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins coarsely and irregularly double-serrate, apex acuminate; petiole 1–1.5 cm long, densely pubescent. Staminate catkins in clusters of two to eight, 2–6 cm long; pistillate flowers in clusters of two to four, bracts tubular, 2–5 cm long, apex lobed, densely covered in yellow tomentum. Nut 1–1.5 cm diameter, with greyish white pubescence on the apex. Flowering May to July, fruiting July to August (China). Li & Skvortsov 1999. Distribution CHINA: southern Gansu, Guizhou, Henan, Hubei, Jiangxi, southern Ningxia, Shaanxi, northeast Sichuan. Habitat Forest in mountain valleys between 800 and 3000 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 5 (or possibly lower). Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration NT273, NT274.
Corylus fargesii is well established in several American arboreta from material collected by the NACPEC 1996 Shaanxi & Gansu Province China Expedition at Dang Chuan Forest Station in Gansu. Trees from this are doing particularly well at the Morris Arboretum, where they have reached 8 m after 10 years, growing on single stems. They have excellent bark patterning, exfoliating to reveal patches of copper and russet, and for this alone are most ornamental, rivalling ‘the most attractive birches’ (Aiello 2006). There are also good specimens at the US National Arboretum and at Morton Arboretum, so it seems to be able to cope with high summer temperatures and humidity as well as cold winters. Further seed was collected in 2005 by another NACPEC expedition (Aiello 2006), and research is ongoing to discover a reliable technique for vegetative propagation, to enable this desirable tree to be distributed more widely (Aiello 2006). It is now in cultivation in Europe (R. Lancaster, pers. comm. 2007), though its route of introduction is unknown.