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Tree to 10 m. Branchlets reddish brown. Buds ovoid to conical, reddish with reddish brown hairs, particularly at the scale apices. Leaves to 23 cm long, with six to seven pairs of leaflets. Leaflets to 4.6 × 1.6 cm, elliptic to oblong, dentate towards the apex. Inflorescences pyramidal. Flowers white. Fruit white flushed with crimson, 0.85 × 0.9 cm; sepals very fleshy, carpels four to five. Tetraploid apomict (2n = 68). McAllister 2005a. Distribution CHINA: western Sichuan (near Muli town). Habitat Mountain thickets. USDA Hardiness Zone 6. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration McAllister 2005a; NT804.
This apomictic microspecies is closely related to Sorbus pseudohupehensis and S. coxii and is rather similar in appearance to both, with the same high horticultural merits. Botanical differences are set out in the key provided for this group (p. 804), but a useful horticultural distinction between S. muliensis and S. pseudohupehensis is that S. muliensis fruits every year (S. pseudohupehensis can become biennial-fruiting), and the larger, softer fruits ripen slightly later than those of S. pseudohupehensis. It may also be slightly hardier than S. pseudohupehensis (McAllister 2005a). Once again, the species was recognised from a single surviving grafted tree at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, in this case grown from Forrest 22177, collected near Muli in 1922 – often described as the best Sorbus in the garden, fruiting heavily and attractively every year.