Shrub to 3 m tall; twigs brownish, glabrous, with chambered pith. Leaf ovate to long-elliptic, 2–9 × 1–3 cm, apex long-pointed, base rounded; margin entire; both sides glabrous; petiole 5–10 mm, glabrous. Flowers solitary in the leaf axils. Calyx lobes broad-ovate, ciliate. Corolla bright yellow, red-striped inside; lobes blunt, c. 25 mm wide. (Chang, Qiu & Green 1996).
Distribution China Sichuan (Muli Xian), NW Yunnan
Habitat Mixed mountain forests.
USDA Hardiness Zone 6
RHS Hardiness Rating H5
Conservation status Not evaluated (NE)
Forsythia likiangensis closely resembles F. giraldiana, from which it was distinguished by Ching and Feng in 1983; it differs in its discrete, more south-westerly distribution and its more consistently hairless and untoothed leaves. A recent genetic study (Ha et al. 2018) suggested that these two species stand apart from the rest of this close-knit genus, and may most closely resemble its ancestral roots from the Miocene epoch.
Seed of Forsythia likiangensis was collected by Fliegner, Howick, McNamara and Staniforth in November 1992 in the Shalie Valley on Muzhiyan Shan (SICH 1137). This collection was originally catalogued under F. giraldiana but was from the known area of distribution of F. likiangensis and was verified as that species by Sven Landrein in 2009. Plants from SICH 1137 still grow at Kew, and in 2021 material was due to be shared with the new UK National Collection of Forsythia at Sculpture by the Lakes in Dorset (M. Gudgeon pers. comm.). F. likiangensis also appears in the species list for the Charles University Botanic Garden in Prague hosted by florius.cz (Florius 2021), but it seems improbable that all the taxa on this list are represented by living plants.