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A tree up to about 25 ft high in the wild; branchlets slender, fairly densely lenticellate, downy when young; winter-buds slightly under 1⁄4 in. long, acute, reddish brown, glabrous. Stipules green, toothed, persistent. Leaves 2 to 31⁄2 in. long, with four or five pairs of leaflets; rachis not winged. Leaflets of leathery texture, about 1 in. long and 1⁄2 in. wide, broad-elliptic, acute and sometimes mucronate at the apex, sharply and finely toothed, often only in the upper half, dark green and at first sparsely hairy above, whitish green and glabrous beneath. Inflorescences about 2 in. long and slightly less wide, with sparsely white-hairy peduncles and pedicels. Flowers white, small; sepals triangular, reddish, glabrous. Styles five. Fruits about 1⁄4 in. wide, globose or slightly pear-shaped, at first red, becoming white flushed with pink.
This interesting species was described in 1906 from specimens collected in southwest Sikkim on a ridge near the frontier with Nepal. It was thought to be confined to that locality until found again in 1971 in adjacent parts of Nepal by the University of North Wales expedition, at altitudes around 10,500 ft. There is no record of plants having been raised from the seeds collected on that occasion, but it may be in cultivation from other sources.
S. kurzii is not closely allied to any other species, being distinct in its thick, glossy leaflets, which despite their small size are in only four or five pairs. It has in common with S. foliolosa (wallichii) that the hairs are white, not brown or fawn as in S. ursina and S. microphylla.
Tree to 7.5 m. Branchlets slender. Buds to 0.9 cm long, reddish and ovoid. Leaves to 13 cm long, with four to five pairs of leaflets. Leaflets 1.6–3.5 × 1.2–1.8 cm, broadly oblong to ovate, upper surface glabrous and very shiny, lower surface papillose, margins serrate, at least at the apices. Inflorescences lax with few flowers; flowers greenish white with pink tips. Fruit initially crimson, but ripening to white flushed with pink, five-angled, 0.55–0.75 × 0.55–0.9 cm; carpels (three to) four to five. Sexual diploid (2n = 34). McAllister 2005a. Distribution BHUTAN; INDIA: Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh; NEPAL. Habitat Mixed scrub, between 3000 and 3300 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 6. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration McAllister 2005a. Cross-reference S498.
For a change, Sorbus kurzii was discovered and named in the nineteenth century, but was introduced to cultivation only in recent years, from eastern Nepal by Ted Millais, and from Bhutan by Keith Rushforth (KR 1501); the latter has also found it in Arunachal Pradesh, slightly extending its previously known range (Keith Rushforth, pers. comm. 2008). It is this stock from Arunachal Pradesh that has become most widely grown and is currently commercially available in the United Kingdom. This is not a very exciting species, with sparse white fruits and rather leathery, rose-like leaves. The leaves are reported to turn a good red colour in autumn, however, and the plant is reasonably drought-tolerant (McAllister 2005a). In the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, where it is represented by EMAK 288, the pearly white fruits set off by the small leaflets in autumn colour are most attractive, but the species probably needs a cool climate to thrive and perform well (H. McAllister, pers. comm. 2007).