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Tree to 10 m, dbh 0.8 m. Branchlets brown, minutely pubescent, usually tipped with slender spines. Leaves mostly evergreen, 4–9(–11) 1.5–3.6 cm, elliptic, upper surface glossy dark green, lower surface pale green with hairs on veins, apex acute to obtuse, lateral veins 10–12 per side, reticulate veins prominent; petiole 0.2–0.4 cm. Male flowers in axillary cymes, densely pubescent in all parts; pedicel 0.6–1.1 cm; calyx with four deep triangular lobes to 0.3 cm long; corolla pale yellow, urceolate with four short reflexed lobes, 0.5–0.7 cm long; stamens 16. Female flowers solitary; calyx lobes four, ovate, c.1 cm, puberulous, becoming glabrous and expanding to 1–2.5 cm in fruit; corolla white, tube c.0.5 cm, lobes four; staminodes six; ovary villose. Fruit a yellow to orange rounded berry, to 3 cm diameter, with persistent enlarged calyx at base. Seeds four or more, to 1.5 cm. Flowering April to May, fruiting August to October (China). Li et al. 1996. Distribution CHINA: southern Anhui, Fujian, Guangxi, Guizhou, western Hubei, Hunan, central and eastern Sichuan, northeastern Yunnan. Habitat Forests in ravines, between 600 and 1500 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 7b. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Li et al. 1996; NT308.
Diospyros cathayensis is a rare tree in our area, with specimens located only at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens and the JC Raulston Arboretum. It has been in the Hillier collection since 1984, growing slowly, to about 2 m in 2007, but does not look happy. In North Carolina it is faster-growing, an accession from 1996 being 4 m when seen in 2006. This is a rather bushy tree, but has a central main stem that should form a respectable trunk in due course. The ascending branches covered in glossy dark green foliage are attractive, and when in fruit the orange globes are extremely ornamental. Diospyros cathayensis evidently has a lot of potential as an ornamental, winter-fruiting evergreen for the warmer parts of our area.