A deciduous tree up to 30 or 40 ft high, with ovate, slenderly pointed leaves 41⁄4 to 6 in. long and 21⁄2 to 5 in. wide; rounded or sometimes heart-shaped at the base, very downy beneath, becoming glabrous as the season advances; stalk slender, downy, 3⁄4 to 13⁄4 in. long. Flowers fragrant, borne in late summer in a terminal inflorescence, each flower 1⁄3 in. across, white, soon changing to yellow; they are unisexual, with both sexes on the same inflorescence; calyx-lobes ovate, pointed; styles three. Fruit an ellipsoid capsule 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. long, many-seeded, seeds winged. Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 480.
Native of China; discovered by Henry in the province of Hupeh about 1889. It did not reach English gardens until 1908, when Wilson sent seeds to the Arnold Arboretum, some of which were distributed in Europe. Some of the young seedlings raised at Kew perished in the severe winter of 1908-9, but others survived. These proved hardy and the species received an Award of Merit when shown from Kew on 30 August 1960. It deserves to be more widely grown for its fragrant flowers, which are borne late in the season – August and September. Wilson observes that the bark in adult trees is grey and deeply furrowed.
There is a specimen at Caerhays, Cornwall, measuring 49 × 33⁄4 (1971).