A deciduous tree 20 to 35 ft high, with young shoots at first thinly downy, brown and glabrous the second year. Leaves pinnate, up to 15 in. long, with seven to thirteen leaflets, main stalk downy. Leaflets 3 to 5 in. long, 1 to 13⁄4 in. wide, oblong-lanceolate, furnished with pale hairs beneath, especially on the midrib. Flowers small, yellowish green, crowded on a short, very downy panicle; ovary downy. Fruits black, globose, 2⁄5 in. wide, aromatic, closely packed in a panicle 2 to 31⁄2 in. long and half as much wide.
Native of Central China; introduced by Wilson from W. Hupeh in 1907, when collecting for the Arnold Arboretum, and perhaps earlier, on one of his expeditions for Messrs Veitch. It is most closely akin to P. japonicum and has similar though less downy leaves, but the fruits are larger, and their close, compact arrangement distinguishes the species well. It first bore fruit at Kew in 1920, and the specimen in the collection now measures 30 × 23⁄4 ft (1967). There is another in the University Botanic Garden, Cambridge, measuring 30 × 13⁄4 ft (1969).
var. glabriusculum Schneid. P. sinense Dode – This differs in having the down on the leaves confined almost to the midrib and main veins. It is probably part of the normal variation of the species. An example at Borde Hill in Sussex, received from the Aldenham Collection under this name, measures 30 × 31⁄4 ft (1968).