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Medium-sized shrub 2 (occasionally –5) m tall, with multiple stems. Bark dark red- or greyish-brown with vertical stripes, branchlets pale green when young. Leaves trifoliolate; upper surface dark green, becoming glabrous, lower surface paler with persistent hairs on the veins, leaflets 4–6 cm, elliptic to ovate or lanceolate-ovate, base cuneate or rounded, apex shortly caudate, margins serrulate, the terminal leaflet being held on a 5–10 mm petiolule; petiole 2.5–3 cm. Inflorescence an erect panicle to 7.5 cm. Flowers with cream-coloured sepals, petals 5-7 mm, obovate to elliptic; ovary and capsule with two locules, capsule c. 2.5 cm long and wide, somewhat flattened. Seeds glossy yellow. Flowering April–May, Fruiting August–September (China). Bean (1981), Li, Cai & Wen (2008)
Distribution China Anhui, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Jiangsu, Jilin, Liaoning, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Sichuan Japan Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku North Korea South Korea
Habitat Open woodlands, thickets, roadsides, lowlands to 1300 m.
USDA Hardiness Zone 4-6
RHS Hardiness Rating H6
Conservation status Not evaluated (NE)
Taxonomic note A slightly hairier form has been named S. bumalda var. pubescens N. Li & Y. H. He, but it is not distinct.
Although quite widely represented in collections, Staphylea bumalda is not a showy plant – Bean’s opinion remains valid: ‘[The Japanese form] has not proved of much value in gardens, being rather tender and having few attractions.’ Plants of Chinese origin are perhaps hardier but remain modestly ornamental. On emergence, the leaves are bronze-tinted, but this soon fades; in autumn the foliage can become red-tinted (Armitage, Edwards & Lancaster (2014)). It was first introduced in 1812 (Chittenden (1951)) and there have been numerous recent gatherings from across its wide range.