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A tree to about 35 ft high in Japan, with ascending branches; twigs glabrous, reddish brown, roughened with numerous prominent lenticels; winter-buds about 3⁄4 in. long, acute, glabrous, green or reddish brown, usually not glutinous on trees cultivated in this country. Leaves up to 10 in. long, including petiole up to 13⁄4 in. long, with mostly six to eight pairs of leaflets; rachis grooved, not winged, glabrous, it and the petiole usually stained with red. Lateral leaflets narrowly to broadly lanceolate or oblong-lanceolate, 11⁄2 to 23⁄4 in. long, 3⁄8 to 1 in. wide, acuminately narrowed at the apex to a slender tip, sharply serrated almost to the base, the teeth finely pointed, frequently double, upper surface dark or medium green, finely reticulated and sublustrous, paler beneath, glabrous on both sides, or with light brown hairs along the midrib beneath. Flowers opening in late spring. Inflorescence 4 to 6 in. across, flat, glabrous or sparsely furnished with pale brown hairs, densely lenticellate. Flowers 1⁄4 to 3⁄8 in. wide, white; receptacle glabrous; petals roundish, about 3⁄16 in. long. Stamens almost as long as the petals, with purplish anthers. Styles three or four. Fruits globose, bright red, lustrous, ripening in autumn, about 3⁄8 in. wide, with a dry flesh. Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 166, as S. serotina.
A native of Japan, Sakhalin and Korea (for the closely related S. randaiensis of Formosa, see below). The species is a somewhat variable one in the length and relative breadth of the leaflets, in the degree of taper at the apex, and in their toothing, as well as in the presence or absence of hairs on the undersides of the leaflets and in the inflorescence (see further under var. rufo-ferruginea). But the variations are certainly not enough to justify the extraordinarily large number of species that Koehne, a notorious splitter, made out of them. There have been three recorded introductions of S. commixta, and their nomenclature is very confused:
1. S. commixta first reached this country from Späth’s nursery towards the end of the last century and was grown as Sorbus or Pyrus aucuparia var. japonica. But it seems to have attracted little attention.
2. Towards the end of the 19th century, seed reached Europe, apparently from the Arnold Arboretum, under the erroneous name of Pyrus or Sorbus discolor, and in Britain this introduction continued to bear this name in gardens until the middle of the present century or even later. On the continent the nomenclature became more involved. Seedlings in Späth’s nursery were identified by Koehne as S. matsumarana, a quite different species. Later he identified them as S. commixta but described one of Späth’s trees as a new species, S. serotina (see cv. ‘Serotina’).
3. In the early 1930s Messrs Marchant received seed from the Chugai Nursery Company of Japan as S. matsumarana, and plants were distributed under this name. The leaflets in this form of S. commixta are brown-hairy along the midrib and rather broad and shortly pointed. A tree at Borde Hill in Sussex received as S. matsumarana from Messrs Marchant was identified by A. B. Jackson as S. commixta var. rufo-ferruginea (see below), and it is really intermediate between that variety and the typical state. Jackson’s identification of the false S. matsumarana was not publicised, and it was under its erroneous name that this form of S. commixta received an Award of Merit on 28 October 1958 for its autumn colour and fruits. This form of S. commixta retains a narrow habit even in age, and grows rather taller than the maximum height given for wild trees; the tree at Borde Hill mentioned above, planted about 1930, measures 50 × 31⁄2 ft (1971).
specimens: Sheffield Park, Sussex, 56 × 51⁄4 ft at 3 ft (1974); Hergest Croft, Heref., 49 × 21⁄4 ft (1985); Thorp Perrow, Bedale, Yorks., 42 × 41⁄4 ft (1981); Alnwick Castle, Northumb., 42 × 41⁄2 ft at 1 ft (1977); Edinburgh Botanic Garden, 50 × 41⁄4 ft (1985); Tyninghame, E. Lothian, 56 × 21⁄2 ft (1984); Dawyck, Peebl., 23 × 3 ft (1984); Tannadyce, Angus, 56 × 21⁄4 ft (1981); Crichie House, Aberd., 46 × 31⁄4 ft (1980).
ferruginea Shirai ex Schneid. S. rufo-ferruginea (Schneid.) Schneid