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Tree 5–20 m. Branchlets glabrous or slightly pubescent. Leaves leathery, 7–13 × 2.5–4(–6) cm, elliptic to oblong, upper surface shiny green, glabrous, lower surface pale green, sparsely pubescent or glabrous, seven to nine secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins undulate, somewhat crenate, apex acuminate; petiole 1–2 cm long, sparsely pubescent or glabrous. Inflorescences racemes of four to eight flowers, 2–3 cm diameter; pedicel 1–2.6 cm long, glabrous or sparsely pubescent. Bracteoles two, caducous, sepals suborbicular, ~0.3 cm diameter, petals white, obovate, 1–1.5 cm long, stamens 0.5–0.7 cm long, ovary tomentose. Capsule subglobose, 1–2 cm diameter. Flowering June to August, fruiting October to December (China). Ming & Bartholomew 2007. Distribution CHINA: Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Zhejiang; JAPAN: Ryukyu Is.; TAIWAN. Habitat Forests between 800 and 1600 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 9–10. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration NT783.
The difficulties of identifying Schima are perfectly illustrated by young, vigorously growing trees at Tregrehan labelled S. superba, grown from seed collected in the Jinggang Shan, Jiangxi. They differ from published descriptions in having 10–11 vein pairs, and some have flat, entire leaf margins while others have teeth on the upper half of the leaf. Juvenility may be partly responsible for this variation, and identification will need to be checked once they reach flowering size.
Bill McNamara (2007b) collected seed from very tall trees (up to 30 m) identified as S. superba by local botanists in Taiwan in 2004. In the United States a plant known as S. superba var. kankaoensis (Hayata) Keng is in cultivation (for example, at the San Francisco Botanical Garden). This Taiwanese taxon is included in S. superba by Ming & Bartholomew (2007), but maintained as distinct by Li (1976).
Material labelled S. wallichii subsp. liukiuensis (Nakai) Bloemb. has been distributed from Chollipo Arboretum, South Korea, and seems to be particularly successful in New Zealand (Clapperton 2008), whence stock has reached the United Kingdom. Its identity needs confirmation, but the trees are very attractive!