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A deciduous tree up to 40 or 45 ft in the wild, armed with often branched, terete spines several inches long; young shoots glabrous or soon becoming so. Leaves pinnate, 5 to 8 in. long, composed of eight to fourteen (sometimes more) leaflets, which are ovate or ovate-lanceolate, blunt or pointed, obliquely tapered at the base, margins slightly wavy, 11⁄4 to 3 in. long, 5⁄8 to 11⁄8 in. wide, downy on the midrib above, soon glabrous elsewhere, net-veined beneath, stalks and rachis downy. Flowers greenish white, in pendulous downy racemes 21⁄2 to 31⁄2 in. long, each flower 1⁄4 in. wide on a downy stalk about 1⁄8 in. long. Pods 5 to 10 in. long, 3⁄4 to 11⁄4 in. wide, scarcely curved, dark purplish brown, flat.
Native of China; described and named by Lamarck in 1786 from a tree growing at Versailles. This honey-locust, according to Henry, occurs wild on the mountains near Peking, but there are plants at Kew raised from Wilson’s seeds collected in 1908 in Szechwan (W.1214) and distributed under this name. It would seem, therefore, if this identification be correct, to have a wide distribution in China. The old trees in France and Italy came from eastern China. The flowers of this species have no beauty.
To the above it should be added that the tree at Kew, received from the Arnold Arboretum in 1909 under number Wilson 1214 (see above), certainly seems to belong to G. sinensis, judging from a recent examination of its foliage. A tree in the University Botanic Garden, Cambridge, measuring 42 × 21⁄2 ft (1968), is certainly authentic.
The only noteworthy specimen is: Nymans, Sussex, 56 × 51⁄2 ft + 33⁄4 ft (1983).