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Tree to 20 m (rarely 30 m), trunk straight or crooked, 1 m dbh. Bark smooth to scaly, greyish to blackish brown, developing irregular, shallow, longitudinal fissures. Crown initially conical, then irregular and open, often flat-topped. Branchlets smooth, yellowish then reddish brown, sometimes glaucous when young, glabrous or variably pubescent; vegetative buds pale brown, slightly resinous. Leaves in fascicles of five (rarely two to four), short and stout, curved and often twisted, epistomatic, with a glossy blue-green outer face and greenish white to vivid white inner faces, triangular in cross-section, 3–6 × 0.1–0.16 cm, apex acute. Fascicle sheaths orange-brown, soon deciduous. Cataphylls to 0.4 cm long, early deciduous. Female cones single or in whorls of two to five, peduncles slender to medium-stout, 0.5–2.5 cm long. Cones 4–10 × 3.5–6.5 cm, slightly resinous, ovoid-cylindrical, mature in about 18 months, deciduous or persistent for a few years. Scales oblong-obovoid, thinly woody; apophysis yellow-brown, smooth, not thickened; umbo terminal, small, dark brown to black. Seeds ellipsoid-ovoid, 0.8–1.3 × 0.4–0.7 cm; wings pale brown, 0.4–1.8 × 0.5–1.0 cm. Fu et al. 1999c, Businský 2004. Distribution CHINA: Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hunan, Yunnan; VIETNAM: Cao Bang Province. Habitat Occurs in mixed coniferous or broadleaved forests, on slopes and ridges between 500 and 1900 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 9–10. Illustration Fu et al. 1999c, Businský 2004.
The relationships of the Asian soft pines have recently been deciphered by Businský (2004); earlier literature is often very confused about the Pinus wangii group. Two recently described taxa are related to P. wangii: P. eremitana Businský (Vietnam, endangered) and P. orthophylla Businský (Hainan Island) (Businský 2004). Neither of these is known to be in cultivation, and both are probably too tender to be successful in our area (M. Frankis, pers. comm. 2007).
P. kwangtungensis Chun ex Tsiang
This subspecies has glabrous to thinly pubescent shoots, and leaves with vivid white stomatal bands. Businský 2004. Distribution CHINA: northern Guangdong, northeastern Guangxi, southern Guizhou, southern Hunan. Habitat Occurs on acidic volcanic and metamorphic rocks and granite outcrops, between 700 and 1600 m asl, and is the most widespread and numerous taxon in the group, stretching 550 km from east to west (Businský 2004). USDA Hardiness Zone 9. Conservation status Vulnerable. Illustration NT628. Taxonomic note This taxon has been included in P. fenzeliana Hand.-Mazz. by Farjon (2001, 2005a), but that species has been demonstrated by Businský (2004) to belong in subsection Flexiles, where it is related to P. armandii, rather than in subsection Strobus, where P. wangii is allied to P. parviflora. Pinus fenzeliana, from Hainan, is not in cultivation and is unlikely to be hardy.
P. wangii var. varifolia Nan Li & Y.C. Zhong
This subspecies has fascicles with three to five leaves (uniquely for a white pine, all others fairly consistently having five). Businský 2004. Distribution CHINA: southwestern Guangxi; VIETNAM: Cao Bang Province. Habitat Occurs in scattered ridge-top populations, between 500 and 1400 m asl, over a narrow band of limestone 140 km long (Businský 2004). USDA Hardiness Zone 9. Conservation status Not evaluated.
Pinus wangii is related to P. parviflora, differing in its longer cone peduncle, more slender cones and stouter leaves. Its blue-green foliage is shorter, stouter and less pendulous than that of other white pines. Its constituent taxa have been the subject of much debate, now resolved, it is to be hoped, by Roman Businský’s extensive field studies (Businský 2004). Taxonomic wrangles aside, there is no doubt that these are all very attractive trees, with fine foliage and handsome cones. The cones appear at a surprisingly young age, as demonstrated by a young tree 1.3 m tall at Kew, which bore a few cones in 2005 and many more in 2007. This individual (labelled P. fenzeliana) was grown from seed collected as P. kwangtungensis in the Heng Shan of Hunan and distributed by the Shanghai Botanic Garden in 1993, and is a very pretty little tree. Another specimen from this source grows at Howick. The earliest introduction, however, was of seed received from northern Guangdong by the Washington Park Arboretum in 1940, and three trees from this accession are still growing there, having reached 10–11 m tall. They first produced cones in 1962 (R. Hitchin, pers. comm. 2007). These have been the source of material distributed to other collections in North America and Europe (K. Rushforth, pers. comm. 2007). Pinus wangii subsp. wangii has been cultivated by Keith Rushforth since 2003, and has reached a metre in height.
The type subspecies has strongly pubescent shoots, and leaves with inconspicuous stomatal bands. Businský 2004. Distribution CHINA: southeastern Yunnan. Habitat Restricted to steep limestone crags, between 1500 and 1800 m asl, though formerly down to 500 m before local deforestation (Businský 2004). USDA Hardiness Zone 9. Conservation status Endangered.