A deciduous tree 20 ft high, with glabrous branchlets. Leaves three-lobed or occasionally with two additional basal lobes; 3 to 6 in. long, and as much wide, the base slightly heart-shaped; lobes pointing forward, triangular, coarsely toothed; leaf-stalk often about as long as the blade. There are tufts of down in the vein-axils. Flowers yellowish green, in racemes 1 to 2 in. long from the joints of the previous season’s wood; stalks downy. Fruit with slightly hairy nutlets; keys 2 in. long; wings 5⁄8 to 3⁄4 in. wide, spreading at nearly right angles.
Native of Central China; introduced in 1901 for Messrs Veitch by Wilson. There is a tree in the Edinburgh Botanic Garden 17 ft high, raised from W. 337 and planted in 1908, which thrives and frequently fruits (1965). Two examples from Forrest’s seed grow at Caerhays Castle, Cornwall. They measure 29 × 21⁄2 and 32 × 21⁄2 ft, with boles of 8 and 10 ft respectively (1966).
A. villosum Wall. – This is really the Himalayan equivalent of the preceding and so closely allied that it is difficult to find any reliable character by which they can be distinguished. If they were merged, it would be under the name A. villosum. It has been in cultivation off and on for more than a century and said to be fairly hardy. But much would depend on the source of the seed; West Himalayan forms are likely to be the hardiest. Cultivated specimens of A. villosum differ from A. franchetii in their larger leaves (up to 10 in. long and wide).
A. thomsonii Miq. A. villosum var. thomsonii (Miq.) Hiern – This is very distinct from the preceding in its leaves. The additional basal lobes seen in the other two species are scarcely discernible, and the main side lobes are very short; keys up to 3 in. long. Native of the E. Himalaya. Seed from Sikkim distributed as “A. villosum” may produce this species. Probably tender.