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Tree to 12 m. Bark pale greyish black. Branchlets slender, pubescent and with conspicuous lenticels. Leaves evergreen, 2–5 × 1–2 cm, ovate to elliptical, thin and leathery, upper surface somewhat scabrous, though hairs mostly restricted to the midrib, lower surface also somewhat scabrous and with an elevated midrib, four to five secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins entire, apex acuminate; petiole 0.2–0.7 cm long. Inflorescences fasciculate, axillary, each axis with a single flower. Flowers 4-merous. Fruit fleshy, globose, red and 0.5–0.7 cm diameter, with four pyrenes. Flowering in summer, fruiting in autumn until February of the following year (Taiwan). Lu 1993a, Galle 1997, Chen et al. 2006. Distribution JAPAN: Ryukyu Is.; TAIWAN: north and central provinces only. Habitat Medium-altitude montane forest between 2300 and 3000 m asl (Taiwan). USDA Hardiness Zone 8–9. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Walker 1976, Lu 1993a; NT398. Taxonomic note There has been some confusion as to the identity and distribution of I. hayatana Loes. The species was originally described from Taiwanese specimens, but Ohwi (1965) and Ohba & Akiyama (1999) recognised I. hayatana auct. non Loes. as a synonym of I. goshiensis Hayata. The latter occurs not only in Taiwan and the Ryukyu Islands, but also on Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku, and possibly in China (Hainan). According to Hu (1953), I. hayatana differs from I. goshiensis in that the leaves are narrower with acuminate or caudate (not obtuse) apices. The inflorescences are fasciculate with single-flowered branches, while those of I. goshiensis are fasciculate with three- to seven-flowered branches.
The only collection of Ilex hayatana ever made seems to be ETOT 131, gathered by Tony Kirkham and Mark Flanagan on Chilanshan, Taiwan in 1992. Here it grew at about 1900 m in rich forest of mixed conifers and broadleaves; in the field notes it is recorded as forming a tree of up to 18 m with a narrow spread of only 4 m, but in the published account of the expedition it is described as a 4 m shrub, with abundant but unexciting fruits (Flanagan & Kirkham 2005). A seedling from this collection is growing at Kew, and in 2007 it was a lanky, gappy shrub, 1.8 m tall by 2.3 m wide, with a few fruits among the yellowing foliage (S. Andrews, pers. comm. 2007). It has neat ovate leaves with a broadly acuminate apex.