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Tree to 8–15 m. Branchlets stiff and stout. Buds red, conical to ovoid, to 1.5 cm long with some reddish brown hairs on the margins and apices of the scales. Leaves 14–26 cm long, with five to eight pairs of leaflets. Leaflets 4–5.5 × 2 cm, obovate, upper surface glabrous, lower surface somewhat papillose, margins toothed for half to two-thirds of their length; leaves turning orange-yellow in autumn. Fruit white flushed with pink at the calyx, 0.75 × 0.8 cm; calyx lobes very fleshy, carpels four to five. Tetraploid apomict (2n = 68). McAllister 2005a. Distribution CHINA: Yunnan (Lijiang range). Habitat Scrub on steep slopes. USDA Hardiness Zone 6. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration McAllister 2005a; NT797.
Sorbus glabriuscula is discussed here to establish the unfamiliar new name for a familiar old plant, the white-fruited S. hupehensis of horticulture. The species is comprehensively discussed by McAllister (2005a), who believes that it must have been introduced by George Forrest, although details are a little hazy. Whatever its origins this is a first-class tree, producing its heavy crops of persistent white fruits reliably each year. It appears at its best when planted against a dark background of conifers, where winter sunlight can illuminate the fruits. The first record of it flowering in cultivation is a herbarium specimen collected in Woburn, Bedfordshire in 1931, so it is interesting that good specimens are growing now in adjacent small private gardens in Woburn village, presumably on their own roots (H. McAllister, pers. comm. 2007).