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A deciduous shrub 3 to 6 ft high (occasionally taller); young shoots slender, downy. Leaves ovate, sometimes indistinctly three-lobed, irregularly toothed, slender-pointed, rounded to heart-shaped at the base, 11⁄2 to 4 in. long, 1 to 21⁄2 in, wide, more or less downy on both surfaces, especially beneath and on the midrib; stalk up to 1⁄2 in. long; stipules about 1⁄4 in. long, entire or slightly toothed. Racemes terminal, 2 to 6 in. long, slender, bearing up to sixty rosy-pink flowers, opening in May and June; pedicels downy, up to 3⁄16 in. long. Receptacle (calyx-tube) cylindrical-campanulate, 3⁄16 to 1⁄4 in. long, downy on the outer and inner surfaces, and becoming glandular-bristly on the outside in the fruiting stage; calyx-lobes erect, lanceolate. Petals rounded, only showing between the calyx-lobes. Ovary hairy at the top. Bot. Mag, n.s., t. 3.
Native of Szechwan, China; discovered by A. E. Pratt near Tatsien-lu in 1890, and described by Hemsley in 1892 under the name N. longiracemosa, by which it has long been known in gardens. A few weeks before Pratt left Tatsien-lu for England, the French explorer Prince Henri d’Orleans (then twenty-three years of age) arrived with his companions after their adventurous journey from Siberia through Chinese Turkestan and the High Plateau of Tibet. Here they added to their botanical collections, all of which they entrusted to Pratt, who conveyed them as far as Shanghai. Among the specimens was a neillia, collected near Tatsien-lu, which the French botanists Bureau and Franchet described as a new species in the following year, 1891. This they called N. thibetica. It has long been suspected that Pratt’s species and the Prince’s were really one and the same, and they were united by Vidal in 1963, under the name N. thibetica, which has a year’s priority. But the credit for the discovery belongs to Pratt, who had spent two summers studying the flora and fauna of the Tatsien-lu area.
N. thibetica was introduced by Wilson when collecting for the Arnold Arboretum in 1908 (as N. longiracemosa) and again in 1911 (as N. thibetica). It is a pretty, elegant shrub and the commonest of the genus in gardens. It received an Award of Merit in 1931.
N. thibetica is allied to N. sinensis, which is distinguished from it by its glabrous calyx-tube and fewer-flowered inflorescence.