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Shrub or small tree to 7.5 m. Branchlets slender, reddish brown. Buds ~0.8 cm, conical to ovoid, deep red with reddish brown hairs on margins and apices of scales. Leaves to 15 cm long, with 10–14 pairs of leaflets. Leaflets to 2.3 × 0.7 cm, elliptic, margins finely dentate in upper third or half, apex apiculate, not papillose beneath. Inflorescences lax. Fruit apple-shaped, 0.85 × 1.1 cm, initially bright crimson (rarely white), gradually becoming paler, until white with crimson flecks, reddish brown hairs at base; sepals fleshy, carpels three to five. Sexual diploid (2n = 34). McAllister 2005a. Distribution CHINA: Guizhou (Fan Jin Shan), southeast Sichuan, southeast Xizang, northwest Yunnan; VIETNAM: Lao Cai (Fan Si Pan). Habitat Mountain forests or scrub. USDA Hardiness Zone 6. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration McAllister 2005a; NT809.
Sorbus pseudovilmorinii is named for its similarity to the well-known and very popular S. vilmorinii, a tetraploid apomict that comes true from seed. This seems to have been introduced to the Vilmorin nursery at Les Barres, France by Abbé Jean Delavay in 1889, and it is probable that all cultivated plants derive from that introduction – sadly usually seen as ungainly grafted specimens. It was as S. vilmorinii that Forrest collected numerous herbarium specimens and seeds of a similar tree in western China during his last expedition (1930–1932), but a survivor at Borde Hill, West Sussex was much later discovered to be a fertile diploid and thus not referable to S. vilmorinii. More gatherings from a wide area of western China began to be made available after the area became more accessible to western visitors from 1980 onwards, and it is now apparent that this diploid species has a huge range in western China. The type specimen is from a tree in cultivation at Ness collected in the Cangshan, Yunnan by the Sino-British Expedition to China in 1981, as SBEC 974. Material has been repeatedly collected since then, and the species is widely represented in collections, at least throughout the British Isles. Being a sexual diploid it is very variable. A group at Tullynally Castle, Co. Longford grown from seed collected by Thomas Pakenham, seen in full fruit in September 2006, showed this very well, their fruits ranging from deep magenta-pink to almost white, and with much variation in the shape of the trees. If, among such seedling batches, an outstanding individual is found, it may be propagated by grafting or by cuttings taken in summer. However, as the species flowers later than many others, groups of seedling trees produce seed that comes almost wholly true, so this sexual species can also be propagated by seed. Pure white-fruited clones are known and may be confused with S. koehneana, although on close inspection they vary in many respects, as tabulated by McAllister (2005a). The best forms of this small tree are exceptional, and as it is tolerant of drier conditions than S. vilmorinii it should be grown more widely. The autumn foliage is a good red.