A deciduous tree 20 to 30 ft high, with glabrous branchlets. Leaves 3 to 5 in. long, 1 to 11⁄2 in. wide, tapering to a long fine point like the almond, finely and sharply toothed, stalk 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. long, with one or two glands. Flowers white or pale pink, 1 in. across, produced singly on very short stalks from the buds of the previous year’s shoots. Calyx glabrous, with five rounded, oblong lobes. Fruits spherical, 11⁄4 in. across, yellowish, downy; flesh thin; nut pitted. The twigs become grey by autumn.
Native of China; introduced to Paris in 1865, by means of seeds sent by the Abbé David, who stated that the tree made a beautiful and conspicuous feature in the vicinity of Peking. In English gardens this species is chiefly valuable for the earliness of its blossoms, which expand at any time between January and March, according to the weather, the normal time, perhaps, being about mid-February. Owing to their earliness, they are liable to injury (I have frequently seen snow resting on trees in bloom), and should be given a sheltered spot – the south-western side of a plantation of evergreens for preference. In such a position, given favourable weather the slender twigs, 1 to 2 ft long, wreathed with white (f. alba Hort.) or, in f. rubra (Bean) Rehd., rosy blossom, have a charming effect. Propagated by budding on almond or plum stocks. The white-flowered form received the Award of Garden Merit in 1927.