Craibiodendron is a small genus of five evergreen trees or shrubs from China and other parts of southeastern Asia from India to Vietnam. The leaves are alternate on glabrous shoots, and are simple with an entire margin, dark green and leathery in texture when mature, although they can be reddish when young, when there may be a few glandular hairs on both sides. The inflorescences overwinter in buds formed in the axils of the upper nodes of the previous year’s growth, developing into panicle- or raceme-like cymes, often two per node, their branches bearing scattered glandular hairs. The flowers are pendulous, usually 5-merous and usually fragrant, developing in the axil of a bract or terminal on the inflorescence branch, the pedicels usually glandular-hairy, with two bracteoles, elongating as the flower and fruit develop. The calyx has five imbricate lobes that persist in the fruit: these are pubescent with a margin of unicellular hairs. The somewhat fleshy corolla is urceolate to cylindrical or campanulate, with five short or long lobes, cream or white to red or grey-purple, externally glabrous to densely hairy, but hairless inside; there are usually ten stamens in two whorls, the swollen and curved filaments being inserted at the base of the corolla and bearing ovoid anthers. The glabrous or densely hairy ovary is superior, with five locules, and has a straight style that is slightly exserted from the corolla. The capsules are held erect and are more or less round in shape, robust and thick-walled. The stigma is truncate, obscurely five-lobed. The seeds are large and brown, with a conspicuous wing on one side.
Craibiodendron is most closely related to Lyonia, and has a certain resemblance to Pieris. It should be cultivated in conditions suitable for such woody ericaceous plants, with an acidic soil that does not dry out too much, and preferably some high overhead shelter. The only species known to be in cultivation is C. yunnanense; the other species occur further south and may not be hardy. The generic name commemorates William G. Craib (1882–1933), a botanist at Kew.
A genus of about seven species in south-east Asia, mainly Burma and Yunnan, allied to Lyonia. C. yunnanense W. W. Sm., described from specimens collected in southern Yunnan, has been introduced by the Sino-British Expedition to Yunnan. The young growths are said to be attractively coloured.