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A deciduous shrub up to 10 ft high, with slightly downy or glabrous, sometimes glandular, purplish young shoots. Leaves oval, ovate or rhomboidal to lanceolate, long- to short-pointed, tapered at the base, 2 to 21⁄2 in. long, 1⁄2 to 2 in. wide; dark dull green and glabrous or slightly downy above, paler and more or less downy beneath; leaf-stalk 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long. Panicles often in pairs from the terminal pair of buds of the previous season’s shoots, each 4 to 6 in. long, rather thinly set with blossom. Flowers opening in late May and June, fragrant. Corolla very slender, 1⁄3 in. long, less in diameter, of various shades of lilac outside, white within; anthers purple, near to but not reaching the mouth. Flower-stalks and calyx often purplish, varying from downy to glabrous. Seed-vessel 1⁄2 in. long, pointed, warty. Series Pubescentes.
Native of Korea and N. China; discovered in the former country in 1897; introduced to St Petersburg soon after. Mrs McKelvey, in her monograph, sank several names under S. velutina which were previously regarded as specific. Amongst them is S. palibiniana, which had been cultivated under that name since 1917, but only differs in the amount of down carried by the various parts (and which should not be confused with ‘Palibin’, the clone of S. meyeri which was introduced some years later, incorrectly under the name S. palibiniana and more recently listed, also incorrectly, as S. velutina). There appears, indeed, to be in this species every gradation between glabrousness and the velvetiness its synonym implies.