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A deciduous tree up to 40 or even more ft high of stiffish habit; young shoots at first covered with whitish down. Leaves ovate or oval, shortly and slenderly pointed, rounded at the base on virgin shoots but wedge-shaped on flowering ones, finely toothed, 2 to 4 in. long, 1 to 21⁄2 in. wide, dark bright green and glabrous at maturity above, purplish when young, pale beneath and downy on the midrib and chief veins; stalk up to 11⁄8 in. long. Flowers white tinged with rose on first opening, fragrant, 1 to 11⁄2 in. wide, produced in April in clusters of three to seven, each on a slender downy stalk 1 in. long; calyx-lobes triangular-ovate, as long as or shorter than the tube and acute or acuminate, downy inside, glabrous and purplish outside; styles usually three. Fruits globose, 1⁄3 in. wide, greenish yellow tinged on the exposed side with red, with the calyx fallen away from the summit. Bot. Mag., t. 9667.
Native of Central and Western China, where it is widely distributed; introduced by Wilson for Messrs Veitch in 1900, but not named until 1915. It is a beautiful tree when in full bloom with its very profuse white or pink-tinted flowers. Wilson considered it to be the finest deciduous flowering tree he had introduced. It is perfectly hardy. The name M. theifera refers to the use of the leaves by the peasants of Central China, who prepare a beverage from them which they call ‘red tea’.
M. hupehensis is allied to M. baccata and M. halliana but in those species the flowers usually have five styles. Also, in M. baccata the calyx-lobes are lanceolate, longer than the tube and in M. halliana they are blunt at the apex.