Shrub or tree to 20 m. Branchlets finely pubescent to glabrous. Leaves imparipinnate, 14–38 cm long; leaflets (3–)5–19, ovate to lanceolate, 4–15 × 1.7–6 cm, papery, oil glands inconspicuous, upper surface glabrous or with appressed hairs on the midrib, lower surface glaucous, glabrous or with appressed hairs on the midrib, 8–18 secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins entire to almost crenulate, apex acuminate; petiolule 0.3–1.5 cm long; rachis glabrous or finely pubescent. Inflorescences 9–19 cm long, finely pubescent or glabrous; pedicels 0.1–0.4 cm long. Flowers mainly 5-merous (occasionally 4-merous); sepals finely pubescent to glabrous, petals green to yellow to white, 0.3–0.4 cm long. Follicles in groups of four to five (rarely one to three), sparsely or densely pubescent, three-sided, 0.35–0.5 cm long. Seeds black, one per follicle, paired with an aborted seed, attached to the follicle via a strip of tissue. Hartley 1981, Chang & Hartley 1993. Distribution CHINA: Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Hong Kong, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Sichuan, Yunnan, Zhejiang; INDIA: Assam, Sikkim, West Bengal; INDONESIA: Sumatra; JAPAN: Honshu, Kyushu, Ryukyu Is., Shikoku; MALAYSIA: Malay Peninsula; MYANMAR; PHILIPPINES; TAIWAN; THAILAND; VIETNAM. Habitat Evergreen forest, between 0 and 2000 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 6–7. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Wharton et al. 2005; NT848. Taxonomic note Ohba (1999) distinguished Japanese plants as var. glaucum (Miq.) T. Yamaz., on the grounds that the follicles are glabrous, though conspicuously tuberculate.
Writing in the immediate aftermath of the Great Storm of 1987, Flanagan (1988) bemoaned the loss of a fine tree of Tetradium glabrifolium at Wakehurst Place, grown from Wilson 247 and thought to be the only one in the country. Another large specimen, presumably of similar vintage, survives at Rowallane, Co. Down, however, where it was 12.7 m with two trunks in 2000 (TROI). It has been reintroduced since that time, and now seems to be well established in cultivation on both sides of the Atlantic, and commercially available, in the United Kingdom at least. A specimen growing at the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden since 1988 has formed an attractive, round-crowned tree that is as wide as it is tall (about 5 m in both directions) (Wharton et al. 2005). It is said to require a hot summer to do well, and in the absence of this growth is apt to occur later in the year. The new growth can be tinged with reddish brown. In Vancouver flowering occurs from summer into late autumn, and is much appreciated by bees (Mosquin 2005), with leaf fall in December. Flanagan (1988) noted that the old tree at Wakehurst Place occasionally coloured well (to a rich coppery red) but this seems to be unusual, the principal display coming generally from the bright red stems of the infructescence. Material was collected in Taroko, Taiwan in 1999 by Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones (BSWJ 6882), and has been available from Crûg Farm.