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Tree to 32 m. Bark grey; irregular scaling ridges develop in maturity. Twigs slender (1.3–2.6 mm thick), initially with tangled stellate indumentum, later glabrous. Buds glabrous, with 2 exposed scales. Leaves 4–8 × 4–7 cm, orbicular but with a long slender tip and a typically cordate base; lower surface pale green or glaucous, initially with a loose stellate indumentum, and with large persistent tufts of reddish hair under the vein axils; teeth with prominent mucronate tips 0.4–1.2 mm long. Floral bracts 4–10 cm × 0.5–1.5 cm, variably stalked. Inflorescences drooping, widely branched, with 10-30 flowers on long pedicels. Staminodes rarely present. Fruit ellipsoid to obovoid, 5–8 mm long, not ribbed; covered in reddish brown indumentum; shell papery and easily crushed. (Pigott 2012, Flora of China 2018).
Distribution China Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning North Korea South Korea Russia north-east Siberia
Habitat Mixed forests
USDA Hardiness Zone 3
RHS Hardiness Rating H7
Tilia amurensis is a widespread species in far eastern Asia, ranging from Siberian Manchuria to the Korean peninsula, principally as subsp. amurensis. In cultivation the nominate subspecies has a bad reputation for emerging early and being badly frosted, leading to the view that there is no good reason to plant it (de Spoelberch 2006). Provenance may however play a part in this, as at Kew a specimen collected in Sakhalin by the Expedition to Sakhalin and Ussuri (ESUS 127) of 1994 is struggling, apparently for this reason, whereas others from Korea are doing much better (BECX 451, for example, collected in Gangwon-do in 1982), as they come into leaf later; the UK champion is a thriving tree of 11 m × 0.36 m dbh (in 2017) at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens (Tree Register 2018). Tilia amurensis subsp. amurensis has in fact been in cultivation for over 100 years, a tree at the Arnold Arboretum, received from Saint Petersburg, having been planted in 1900 (Pigott 2002), and there have been regular reintroductions as well – but it is not commonly grown, at least under this name. A particularly hairy form from Jilin has been recognised as T. amurensis var. araneosa C. Wang & S.D. Zhao, and is maintained as distinct by Tang et al. (Tang, Gilbert & Dorr 2007).
The population of Tilia amurensis on the Korean island of Ulleungdo has been named T. insularis (see Bean and Krüssmann: B600, S514, K397), on the basis of very minor characters, but fits within the range of T. amurensis (Pigott 2000). In European horticulture and literature the name T. insularis is apparently almost exclusively attached to an exceptional clone of T. japonica, now named ‘Ernest Wilson’.
T. koreana Nakai
This subspecies has smaller leaves (4–5 × 3.5–4 cm) than in typical T. amurensis; the leaves have a truncate or emarginate base and an acuminate apex, giving a birch-like appearance, and reddish stellate hairs on the stems (as opposed to white stellate hairs in subsp. amurensis) (Pigott 2012).
RHS Hardiness Rating: H7
The smaller, daintier-leaved subsp. taquetii is still rare in cultivation but deserves to be more widely cultivated. A vigorous young tree seen at Harry Hay’s garden in Surrey was 3 m tall in 2005, grown from seed collected on Jirisan in Jeollanam-do, South Korea in 1994 and distributed by the Chollipo Arboretum. Elsewhere in the garden is another specimen from the same source in 1996, but originating from the Taebaek Mountains (H. Hay, pers. comm. 2008).