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A deciduous shrub up to 10 or 15 ft high; young shoots usually without down but sprinkled with pale warts. Leaves oval to ovate, pointed, more or less wedge-shaped at the base, 2 to 6 in. long, half as much wide, dark green, glabrous or slightly downy above, pale and downy (sometimes very much so) beneath, ciliate; stalk 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long. Panicles erect, terminal, up to 8 in. long and 5 in. wide, rather loose; flower-stalks reddish, more or less downy, sometimes glabrous. Flowers pale lilac-pink, white inside, with a fragrance resembling, but not so strong as, that of common lilac. Corolla-tube about 1⁄2 in. long with four lobes spreading sufficiently to give the flower a diameter of 1⁄3 in. Calyx cup-shaped, reddish, 1⁄16 in. long, truncate or slightly toothed, glabrous or downy. Seed-vessel shining, spindle-shaped, 2⁄3 in. long, not downy. Series Villosae. Bot. Mag., t. 8739.
Native of W. China; first described in 1891 from material collected by Prince Henri d’Orléans the previous year. It had been collected a year previously by A. E. Pratt, but did not reach cultivation until 1904, when Wilson introduced it from W. Szechwan to Veitch’s nursery at Coombe Wood. This sending was named S. alborosea by N. E. Brown. In 1908 Wilson again collected it in W. Szechwan and of part of his material Schneider made a new species, viz., S. wilsonii, and identified the remainder as S. tomentella; they are now regarded as one species, the differences consisting chiefly in the degree of pubescence.
In all its forms S. tomentella is very handsome and, like others of the Villosae group, valuable in coming into flower in June after the common lilac and its varieties are past. The often very densely downy undersurface of the leaves is distinctive.