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Shrub or tree to 5 m. Branchlets reddish or grey and villous, quickly glabrous. Leaves deciduous, alternate, 6–11 × 2–5.5 cm, oblanceolate or obovate, membranous, both surfaces glabrous or with tufts of hair in the vein axils, pinninerved with seven to nine conspicuous veins on each side of the midrib, margins entire or ciliate, apex acuminate to acute; petiole 0.2–0.5 cm long and villous. Umbels solitary, axillary, with 6–12 flowers and subtended by four bracts. Flowers greenish yellow with a six-lobed villous perianth tube. Fruit subglobose, scarlet and ~1 cm diameter. Flowering April to May or earlier, fruiting September to August (China). Cheng 1934. Distribution CHINA. Habitat Forest. USDA Hardiness Zone 7. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Cheng 1934.
Forming a small, shrubby tree, Lindera chienii is most valued for its heavy production of yellow flowers in early spring; Dirr (1998) records a January flowering period in Atlanta, Georgia, while the JC Raulston Arboretum website illustrates the plant flowering in February. Individually the flowers are small, but they are numerous in each umbel. In autumn the leaves turn a good yellow before falling. It is quite widely grown in the United States but is less frequent in Europe, though there are several specimens at Arboretum Wespelaar and Herkenrode (where it has survived –13 °C), and a few in English collections.