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A small evergreen tree 10 to 20 ft. high; young shoots and leaves quite glabrous. Leaves leathery, very variable in shape, and either simple, bifoliolate (rarely), or trifoliolate; the simple leaf and the individual leaflets of the compound leaves are similar in size and shape, being narrowly lanceolate, tapered towards both ends, especially towards the apex which is very long and slender-pointed; margins remotely toothed, 3 to 6 in. long, 3⁄4 to 11⁄2 in. wide; dark glossy green; leaf-stalk 2 to 8 in. long, grooved on the upper side. The simple leaves have normally three longitudinal veins starting from the base; where the leaf consists of two leaflets one has a single vein, the other (usually larger) one has two; where there are three leaflets each has a single vein. Thus every leaf, whatever its shape, has three veins. Flowers small, greenish yellow, opening in July and August, and produced in pyramidal or rounded panicles 3 to 6 in. long composed of small umbels. Fruits black, roundish, compressed, 1⁄6 in. wide.
Native of W. and Central China; discovered by the French missionary David near Mupin in 1869 and introduced by Wilson in 1907 when collecting for the Arnold Arboretum. It makes a neat evergreen, quite distinct from any other hardy one in the diversity of its leaves. In this country (and sometimes in the wild) it makes a large shrub and is slow-growing. It is moderately hardy near London in a sheltered place but thrives better in the Atlantic zone.
It is easily increased by summer cuttings.