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A tree up to 80 ft high in the wild; young shoots glaucous at first, afterwards dull yellow or brownish, not downy; bark fissured, grey tinged with pink or orange; winter-buds oblong-ovoid, pointed, 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. long, the scales closely appressed. Leaves densely set on the shoots, mostly in pairs, sometimes in threes, 3 to 6 in. long; basal sheath persistent, 1⁄4 in. long. Cones solitary, ovoid, up to 21⁄2 in. long, persisting on the branches several years.
P. tabuliformis is widespread in the mountains of China and descends to near sea-level in the plains of the north. It was introduced by Fortune from the neighbourhood of Peking in 1862, but the trees now in cultivation are from later reintroductions and mostly from seed sent from W. China by Wilson when collecting for the Arnold Arboretum. It is very rare in this country and of no ornamental value. An example at Borde Hill, Sussex, in Gores Wood, measures 52 × 21⁄4 ft (1974). It was identified as P. tabuliformis by A. B. Jackson, and was raised from seeds collected by Wilson in Korea, distributed as P. densiflora (W.8815). Others are: Bayford, Herts, in Bells Wood, 45 × 31⁄2 ft (1962); Edinburgh Botanic Garden, from Wilson 1369, 36 × 2 ft (1967).
P. tabuliformis was at one time known by the name P. sinensis, but the pine thus named by Lambert is P. massoniana, a species very rare in cultivation, and not treated here.
specimens: Borde Hill, Sussex, Gores Wood, 59 × 21⁄2 ft (1981); Edinburgh Botanic Garden, from Wilson 1369, 70 × 21⁄2 ft and, from W.1370, 52 × 31⁄2 ft (1985); Altyre, Moray, 66 × 3 ft (1985).
P. yunnanensis – The specimen at Kew measures 40 × 43⁄4 ft (1980), and there are others at Borde Hill, Sussex.
This species was described by Bean (B245, S381) and Krüssmann (K245). A key to the varieties, adapted from Fu et al. (1999c), is presented below. Pinus tabuliformis var. henryi is treated here as P. henryi (p. 603).
Trunk monopodial at the base, then branching to form a fan-shaped crown; China (Hebei, Liaoning)
Trunk monopodial, crown conical then flat-topped
Bark dark grey; branchlets greyish yellow to greyish brown; China (Jilin, Liaoning), North Korea
Bark pale grey, brown-grey or reddish grey; branchlets yellowish brown; China (Gansu, Hebei, Henan, south Jilin, Liaoning, Nei Mongol, Ningxia, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, Sichuan)
P. tabuliformis var.yunnanensis (Franch.) Shaw
Pinus tabuliformis var. mukdensis has been grown at Kew since 1979, when plants were donated by the Arboretum of the Chinese Academy of Forestry in Beijing. The trees have done well and have reached 10 m in height, producing abundant cones, but though worthy specimens they are distinctly dull. Perhaps, as in var. tabuliformis, they will attain a picturesque old age. The taxon is also occasionally grown by specialist collectors, as at the Anthoine Pinetum in Belgium, but is rare. Wilson 8815, collected in Korea, also belongs to this variety, and specimens under this number are growing at several arboreta (M. Frankis, pers. comm. 2007).
Unlike the other varieties with monopodial stems, P. tabuliformis var. umbraculifera T.N. Liou & Q.L. Wang branches early, forming a fan-shaped crown (Fu et al. 1999c). This character may be induced by environmental factors, or the taxon may derive from horticultural selections, in which case a cultivar group name might be more appropriate (M. Frankis, pers. comm. 2007). It is not known to be in cultivation, but is of potential interest in ornamental horticulture.