Evergreen tree to 30 m. Twigs grey-brown; twigs, buds, young leaves and flower-heads with rusty pubescence. Leaves simple, narrowly elliptic, 5–15(–18) × 2–5 cm, cuneate at the base, leathery, glossy, becoming glabrous above; veins sunken, in 7–10 pairs which do not reach the margin; margin entire or serrate; petiole 15–40 mm. Flower-head terminal, rarely axillary, solitary or in clusters of 2–4, erect, 10–16 cm tall, branched 3 times. Sepals 5. Petals yellowish or brownish white, to c. 1.5 mm wide. Fruit 3–4 mm wide, obovoid. Flowers (in the wild) March–May, fruits October–November. (Guo & Brach 2007).
Distribution China Guangdong, Hainan, S Xizang, SW Yunnan Thailand Vietnam
Habitat Subtropical evergreen open forests and in ravines, 1200–2400 m asl.
USDA Hardiness Zone 9
RHS Hardiness Rating H3
Conservation status Not evaluated (NE)
This is one of many similar evergreen Meliosma species whose distribution extends south from China into the tropics of south-east Asia; it is included here on the basis of unconfirmed collections at Tregrehan in Cornwall, UK. The flower-heads are smaller and duller than in the hardy, deciduous Meliosma species, and M. dumicola and its allies seem unlikely ever to be widely cultivated in the west.
The plants at Tregrehan were collected in North Vietnam in 1999 and have grown into densely-branched trees 6–7 m tall, which are yet to flower. The brilliant green, glossy leaves with long drip-tips are strikingly attractive, and they have ‘always looked unbelievably fresh and chirpy even with freezing temperatures’ (T. Hudson pers. comm.).