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A tree rarely to 17m tall. Bark dull grey, developing close, lumpy and corky ridges. Twigs quite slender (2–2.8 mm thick), usually with dense white stellate hairs. Buds with two exposed scales of about equal length, densely grey-tomentose. Leaves 5.5–12 × 4-8.5 cm, rather triangular and broadest near the base which is usually cordate; marginal teeth quite long and usually forward-pointing; underleaf grey with stellate pubescence (mostly 8-armed), and with brown hairs under the veins. Floral bracts 5.5–11 × 1–2 cm, often sessile, densely covered beneath with grey-white stellate hairs. Inflorescence drooping, with 8–20 small cup-shaped flowers. Staminodes present. Fruit 8–10 mm, spherical, often weakly mamillate, with dense stellate hairs and a thick (0.8–1 mm) wall (Pigott 2012, Flora of China 2018).
Distribution China Anhui, Guangdong, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Zhejiang
USDA Hardiness Zone 7
RHS Hardiness Rating H5
Conservation status Not evaluated (NE)
The Temple Lime is one of several native species which substituted in Chinese Buddhism for the tropical Pu-ti-shu or Bodhi tree (Ficus religiosa) under which the Buddha sat, and it remains associated with temple precincts, sometimes spreading into the protected woodland enclaves which surround them. ‘In its truly wild state the species is on the verge of extinction’ (Pigott 2012). There is a tradition that the species was introduced to Japan around AD 1190 (Elwes & Henry 1906–1913) [CHECK PUB YEAR OF RELEVANT VOLUME AND AMEND], where a much larger number of trees have been planted (Pigott 2012) and from where it was first described by Maximowicz in 1880.
The leaf-shape is very variable, but is typically more triangular than other limes’. It is one of the smaller species, and in cultivation in Britain older examples have grown slowly and also rather reluctantly, with the champion being a rather spindly 13 m × 34 cm dbh at Killerton in Devon when measured in 2013. However, a 2000 planting in the National Collection at Peasmarsh Place in East Sussex has thrived remarkably, reaching 10 m × 22 cm dbh by 2018 (Tree Register 2018). The record of a 26.4 m x 94 cm dbh tree at the Arboretum Tervuren in Belgium in 2011 (monumentaltrees.com 2018) has to be considered suspect, despite the more continental climate and the excellent soil here. [IT WOULD BE USEFUL TO TRY TO FIND DATA ON OTHER EXAMPLES IN SIMILAR CLIMATES IN CONTINENTAL EUROPE AND NORTH AMERICA TO COMPARE, AND USEFUL FOR A GENERAL DISCUSSION OF PERFORMANCE IN THESE AREAS REGARDLESS].