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Tree 8–10 m, branches somewhat pendulous. Branchlets dark brown, villous when young. Buds ovoid, reddish brown, scales with slightly pubescent margins. Leaves deciduous, 6–12 × 3.5–7 cm, elliptic to ovate, upper surface sparsely pubescent along the midrib, lower surface sparsely pubescent along the midrib and lateral veins, margins serrate, apex acuminate; petiole 2–4 cm long, villous; stipules caducous, 0.5–0.6 cm long, membranous. Corymb 4–6 cm diameter, somewhat umbel-like, with four to eight flowers. Flowers 2.5–3 cm diameter; hypanthium bell-shaped, densely villous; sepals triangular-lanceolate, slightly longer than hypanthium; petals white, obovate, 1.2–1.5 cm long; stamens 25, shorter than petals. Pome red, ovoid or subglobose, 1–1.5 cm diameter with caducous sepals. Flowering May to June, fruiting September (China). Gu et al. 2003. Distribution BHUTAN; CHINA: southwest Sichuan, southeast Xizang, northwest Yunnan. Habitat Mixed forest in valleys, between 2400 and 3800 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 4. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Gu et al. 2003; NTxvi, NT508. Cross-references B693, K284 (both as M. baccata var. himalaica); K290. Taxonomic note Fiala (1994) considered this species to be a cultivar, Malus ‘Rockii’.
The taxonomy of the Malus section Malus series Baccatae, to which this and other relatives of M. baccata belong, is complicated by their being a mixture of cultivated and wild populations, with hybridisation probably in the equation as well. It is not even clear whether the Chinese M. rockii is conspecific with the Himalayan M. sikkimensis (Juniper & Mabberley 2006), although Flora of China treats them separately. Bean (1981a) discusses several collections under the name M. baccata var. himalaica which seem to refer to this taxon. In recent times it has been collected quite frequently in Yunnan, and representative wild-origin material is being grown at Kew (M. Foster 93051) and Edinburgh (CLD 874). It forms a small tree producing the abundant flowers to be expected of a relative of M. baccata, and attractive fruit in autumn.