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Shrub or small tree to 5 m. Branchlets dark brown with short, stiff golden hairs. Leaves evergreen, alternate, 6–12 × 2.5–6 cm, elliptic to lanceolate, immature leaves covered in dense, silvery hairs, mature leaves upper surface green, glabrous, lower surface glaucous with some white silky hairs, triplinerved, margins entire, apex caudate or long-acuminate; petiole 0.8–1.2 cm long. Inflorescences subsessile, axillary, produced just below the newly expanding leaves, umbels clustered with 2–20 flowers or solitary, pedicels with short white-golden hairs. Flowers with deciduous perianth. Fruit ellipsoid, 1 × 0.7 cm. Flowering April to June (Bhutan). Long 1984. Distribution BHUTAN; INDIA: Sikkim; NEPAL. Habitat Evergreen forest, between 2000 and 2500 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 8. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration NT455. Cross-reference S308.
Lindera pulcherrima subsp. pulcherrima was introduced to Wakehurst Place as a single seedling by Tony Schilling (Schilling 2617) from the Dorandi valley of the Gurkha Himal in central Nepal, in 1983. Schilling (pers. comm. 2005) notes that the parent trees were large evergreens, growing as understorey in evergreen oak forest. As a young plant it was mentioned by Clarke (1988) as having survived the 1986 winter, and it is still growing at Wakehurst Place, having reached 3 m by 2007, as an erect rounded, bushy tree with several stems. The leaves are a glossy mid-green with a pale underside. No flowers have yet been observed (D. Hardman, pers. comm. 2007). Lindera pulcherrima is a typical warm temperate forest plant, with long drip-tips on its conspicuously three-veined leaves (Hudson 2004), but could certainly be attempted in the milder, moister parts of our area.
Seed of subsp. thomsonii (C.K. Allen) D.G. Long was collected in Sichuan in 1995 by the Fliegner, Howick, Erskine and McNamara expedition (SICH 1602), but failed to germinate at Kew and Quarryhill. The two subspecies differ principally in their leaves, which are 6–8 cm long in subsp. thomsonii, with a narrow, caudate apex 1.5–2.5 cm long; subsp. pulcherrima has leaves 8–12 cm long, of which the apex is 0.8–1.5 cm long (Long 1984).