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A tree with strongly angled, glabrous, pale green (afterwards brown) young shoots; buds not downy, viscid. Leaves obovate-lanceolate to oval-lanceolate, much tapered to the base, more abruptly to the apex; marginal teeth rounded, glandular, bright vivid green above, pale and greyish beneath, glabrous on both surfaces, up to 6 in. long by 3 in. wide; stalk 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long. Leaves of this size, shape, etc., are as they occur on vigorous young trees; on older plants they are of ovate shape and often truncate at the base, or slightly cordate. Female catkins 4 to 6 in. long; seed-vessels glabrous.
Native of Yunnan, China. A living plant was sent to L. A. Dode, of Paris, by Père Ducloux some time previous to 1905, and from this the present stock of plants in cultivation was derived. It is one of the balsam poplars and perhaps most nearly allied to P. simonii. It never became common in cultivation and is now very rare in this country. It is, however, one of the most ornamental of poplars. There are two examples at Mount Usher, Co. Wicklow, Eire, the larger measuring 51 × 43⁄4 ft (1966).
specimens: Dyffryn Gardens, near Cardiff, pl. 1967, 59 × 3 ft (1984); Hillier Arboretum, Ampfield, Hants, pl. 1966, 46 × 33⁄4 ft (1980); University Botanic Garden, Cambridge, 48 × 41⁄2 ft (1980); Birr Castle, Co. Offaly, Eire, 85 × 5 ft (1985).