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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).
specimens: Caerhays, Cornwall, from F.29083, 35 × 3 ft and 40 × 31⁄2 ft (1984); Dyffryn Gardens, near Cardiff, 28 × 33⁄4 ft at ground level (1979); Edinburgh Botanic Garden, 23 × 21⁄4 ft (1985); Dawyck, Peebl., 31 × 21⁄2 ft (1982).
[A. villosum] – The correct name for this species is A. sterculiaceum Wall. (A. villosum Wall., not Presl). It has a wide distribution in the Himalaya as far east as Assam, and it is possible that intermediates between it and A. franchetii occur in south-west China, since in Alan Mitchell’s opinion the Caerhays trees under the latter name, from Yunnan seed, look more like A. sterculiaceum than A. franchetii.
The best specimen in Britain by far grows at Westonbirt, Gloucestershire, in the Savill Glade, a vigorous tree with a hard leaf planted 1942 and measuring 50 × 33⁄4 ft (1980); another of the same planting date is 44 × 23⁄4 ft (1980) and a third is 38 × 21⁄4 ft (1976). Apart from these, the only specimens are: Hillier Aboretum, Ampfield, Hants, pl. 1957, 28 × 21⁄2 ft (1983); Nymans, Sussex, Wild Garden, 59 × 11⁄2 ft (1985); Abbotsbury, Dorset, 34 × 13⁄4 ft (1980).
There have been two reintroductions in recent years: by the University of North Wales Expedition to East Nepal (B.L. & M. 307) and by A. D. Schilling under his number 2284 (1977).
A. villosum var. thomsonii (Miq.) Hiern