A deciduous shrub or a small tree. Leaves obovate, or ovate-lanceolate, 11⁄2 to 31⁄2 in. long, 3⁄4 to 11⁄2 in. wide, the apex drawn out into a long fine point, tapered at the base, finely and regularly toothed, each tooth gland-tipped. Flowers white, in corymbs 1 in. long and 11⁄2 in. wide, produced in May; stalks conspicuously warted; each flower about 1⁄2 in. in diameter. Fruit the size and shape of common haws, red.
Native of Japan, China, and Korea. It is a variable plant especially in the amount of down on the leaves, young shoots, and flower-stalk. In the typical P. villosa the leaves are, as a rule, more obovate, and all the younger parts of the plant hairy; the flower-stalk is felted with grey down, and the fruit is about 1⁄2 in. long. In var. laevis (see further below), the leaves are usually longer-pointed and, like the branchlets and flowers, are glabrous or only slightly downy; the brilliant red fruits are 1⁄2 in. long. These two varieties, while distinct enough in themselves, are united by various intermediate forms, and it is doubtful if the distinction need be recognised in gardens. Indeed it never has been, since most of the plants grown as P. villosa belong strictly to the var. laevis. It was introduced to Europe by Siebold around 1865, but did not reach this country until later in the century.
Although not in the first rank as an ornamental, P. villosa makes an elegant shrub of large size and is very reliable both in its fruiting and in its red autumn colouring. It is not suitable for chalky soils.
var. laevis (Thunb.) Dipp. Crataegus laevis Thunb.; Pourthiaea arguta Lav., not Decne. – This variety has been discussed above. Figured in Bot. Mag., t. 9275.
f. maximowicziana (Lévl.) Rehd. Pyrus sinensis var. maximowicziana Lévl.; Photinia maximowicziana (Lévl.) Nakai, not P. maximowiczii Decne. – Leaves almost sessile, rounded and abruptly acuminate, sometimes almost truncate, at the apex, cuneate at the base; veins deeply impressed above. Autumn colour of cultivated plants yellow. R. L. Lancaster considers that this photinia is distinct enough to merit specific rank and has proposed for it the name P. koreana in the Manual of Messrs Hillier & Sons.
var. sinica Rehd. & Wils. – This variety, which represents the species in Central and Western China, was discovered by Henry and introduced by Wilson about 1901. It is a slender deciduous tree 18 to 25 ft high, with downy young shoots. Leaves oval to oblong, sometimes rather obovate, pointed, usually tapered but sometimes rounded at the base, finely and sharply toothed, 11⁄2 to 31⁄2 in. long, 1⁄2 to 11⁄2 in. wide, bright green and soon glabrous above, paler beneath and downy especially on the midrib and veins, becoming glabrous by late summer; stalk 1⁄12 to 1⁄5 in. long, downy. Flowers produced in May on racemose corymbs 1 to 2 in. wide with downy stalks. Each flower is about 1⁄3 in. wide, with white rounded petals, a woolly bell-shaped calyx with triangular teeth and twenty stamens. Fruits egg-shaped, 1⁄2 in. long, orange-scarlet; the fruit stalks conspicuously warted.
This variety, which replaces typical P. villosa in W. China, is distinct in its mostly elliptic leaves and in its larger fruits, borne in racemes rather than corymbs. It, too, colours well in the autumn.