Tsuga chinensis (Franch.) Pritzel

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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Article from New Trees by John Grimshaw & Ross Bayton

Recommended citation
'Tsuga chinensis' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/tsuga/tsuga-chinensis/). Accessed 2024-02-27.



  • Abies chinensis Franch.
  • Tsuga brunoniana var. chinensis (Franch.) Mast.


Reduced leaf often subtending flower or inflorescence.
Lower Risk
See Least Concern.
United States Department of Agriculture.
See Tibet.
(pl. apices) Tip. apical At the apex.
Above sea-level.
Term used here primarily to indicate the seed-bearing (female) structure of a conifer (‘conifer’ = ‘cone-producer’); otherwise known as a strobilus. A number of flowering plants produce cone-like seed-bearing structures including Betulaceae and Casuarinaceae.
Diameter (of trunk) at breast height. Breast height is defined as 4.5 feet (1.37 m) above the ground.
Minutely (triangularly) toothed.
Notched at the apex.
With an unbroken margin.
Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
(botanical) Contained within another part or organ.
Smooth and shiny.
(of a plant) Growing in moist (mesic) habitats.
Of mountains.
Egg-shaped; broadest towards the stem.
Egg-shaped solid.
With a peduncle.
Diamond-shaped. rhomboid Diamond-shaped solid.
Lacking a stem or stalk.
(var.) Taxonomic rank (varietas) grouping variants of a species with relatively minor differentiation in a few characters but occurring as recognisable populations. Often loosely used for rare minor variants more usefully ranked as forms.


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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Article from New Trees by John Grimshaw & Ross Bayton

Recommended citation
'Tsuga chinensis' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/tsuga/tsuga-chinensis/). Accessed 2024-02-27.

A tree up to 80 ft high in China, occasionally over 100 ft high; young shoots light brown, finely downy, especially in the grooves. Leaves pectinately arranged, up to about 34 in. long, entire (minutely toothed on seedling plants), parallel-sided, slightly notched at the apex, with two usually green stomatic bands beneath. Cones broadly ovoid, with light brown, lustrous, almost orbicular scales. Bot. Mag., t. 9193.

Native of central and western China (a variety in Formosa); first seen by Père David near Mupin in W. Szechwan; described from specimens collected by Père Farges in N.E. Szechwan; introduced by Wilson for Messrs Veitch in 1902, from Hupeh. It was at first confused with T. sieboldii, from which it differs in its downy stems; and also with T. yunnanensis, see below.

T. chinensis is not in general cultivation. The best examples are: Bodnant, Denbigh, 48 × 5 ft (1974) and National Botanic Garden, Glasnevin, Eire, 33 × 334 ft (1974).

T. forrestii Downie – Although included in T. chinensis by Wilson this species appears to be distinct enough in its brown or reddish brown branchlets, longer leaves (to 1 in. long) and tapered cones. It was described from a specimen collected by Forrest in the Lichiang range in 1918 and was subsequently found by him in other parts of N.W. Yunnan and in bordering S.W. Szechwan (Notes Roy. Bot. Gard. Edin., Vol. 14 (1923), p. 18 and Vol. 18 (1933), p. 136). A plant at Borde Hill in Sussex may belong here, and those propagated by Messrs Hillier derive from it.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

specimens: National Pinetum, Bedgebury, Kent, pl. 1937, 35 × 234 ft (1978); Windsor Great Park, above Valley Garden, 52 × 434 + 334 ft (1979); Bodnant, Gwyn., 59 × 6 ft (1984); National Botanic Garden, Glasnevin, Eire, 38 × 4 ft (1980); Headfort, Co. Meath, Eire, 40 × 5 ft (1980).

From New Trees

Tsuga chinensis (Franch.) E. Pritz.

Chinese Hemlock

Synonyms: T. formosana Hayata

Tree to 50 m, 1.5–2 m dbh. Bark orange-brown with grey-green flakes, becoming grey-brown and very scaly in older trees. Crown broad, conical or flat-topped. Branchlets slender, finely grooved between the slightly swollen pulvini, yellowish brown, minute pubescence in the grooves, later glabrous; vegetative buds not resinous. Leaves dark, glossy green, (0.6–)1–2(–2.7) × 0.18–0.3 cm, linear, apical margins denticulate, emarginate or entire. Male strobili 0.3–0.5 cm long, yellow with a hint of purple. Female cones ovoid to oblong, 1.5–2.5 × 1.3–2.2 cm, light green, turning shiny brown later; pedunculate or sessile, deciduous after shedding. Seed scales nearly circular, 0.8–1.2 × 0.8–1 cm. Bract scales transversely rhombic, 0.1–0.2 cm long, included. Seeds light brown, ovoid to triangular or oblong, wings ovate, 0.6–0.7 × 0.35 cm, light yellow and transparent. Farjon 1990, Fu et al. 1999c. Distribution CHINA: Anhui, Fujian, Gansu, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Xizang, Yunnan, Zhejiang; TAIWAN. Habitat Occurs in mixed mesophytic forest and, rarely, in montane coniferous forest, at altitudes of between 600 and 3200 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 6. Conservation status Lower Risk. Illustration Farjon 1990, Fu et al. 1999c, Aiello 2006; NT868, NT870. Cross-references B625, S520, K320. Taxonomic note Flora of China (Fu et al. 1999c) recognises five varieties of T. chinensis: var. chinensis, var. formosana (Hayata) H.L. Li, var. forrestii (Downie) Silba (recognised as T. forrestii Downie by Farjon 2001), var. patens (Downie) L.K. Fu & Nan Li, and var. robusta W.C. Cheng & L.K. Fu, differing in the colour and diameter of the shoots, and in cone characteristics. Of these, Farjon (2001) accepts only T. chinensis var. robusta – but adds T. chinensis var. oblongisquamata W.C. Cheng & L.K. Fu, which Fu et al. (1999c) treat as T. oblongisquamata (W.C. Cheng & L.K. Fu) L.K. Fu & Nan Li, though acknowledging its closeness to T. chinensis.

Tsuga chinensis was briefly described by Bean (1981b), with the comment that it was ‘not in general cultivation’. In view of its emerging importance in eastern North America, however, as an apparently Woolly Adelgid-resistant substitute for T. canadensis and T. caroliniana, it is treated here in full. It was first introduced by Wilson from Hubei in 1902, and until recently was principally represented in cultivation by specimens from this collection (and perhaps later Wilson collections for the Arnold Arboretum). An original specimen at Bodnant, Conwy was 18 m tall, 65 cm dbh in 1990 (Johnson 2003), and there are survivors in the United States from Wilson collections (for example, at the Arnold). A shapely, straight tree (12 m tall, 50 cm dbh) at the Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, however, was imported from Hillier & Sons in 1938 (A. Bunting, pers. comm. 2007).

Recent reintroductions have brought new genetic diversity. Wilson noted that it was a denser, shorter tree in Hubei than in Sichuan (Sargent 1916), and in Taiwan it can be up to 50 m tall (ETOT field notes). It has been collected by British expeditions in Sichuan (SICH 1761, in 1996) and Taiwan (ETOT 63, 100, in 1992). NACPEC teams have also collected it on several occasions during the 1990s and more recently, resulting in a large number of accessions throughout North American arboreta, regarded as important for their assumed adelgid resistance (Aiello 2006). In 2005 it was collected in Gansu, at the northern edge of its range, with hopes of extra hardiness (Aiello 2006). All these introductions are still young, but most seem to be growing well, and material has been released to commerce within the United States. In 2005, plants from the 1996 SICH 1761 collection were up to 2.2 m at Kew, while at Wakehurst Place a tree from ETOT 63 was 2 m tall and already fruiting, although it appeared rather unhappy, perhaps because it was planted in full sun. Light shade, as as minimum, seems to be useful for T. chinensis, at least when young.

A recent study of the biogeographic and phylogenetic relationships of Tsuga species (Havill et al. 2008) has found that material attributed to T. chinensis from Taiwan (i.e. var. formosana) groups with the Japanese T. sieboldii rather than with T. chinensis. On the other hand, material from Ullung-do, identified as T. sieboldii, groups with the other Japanese species, T. diversifolia. It is clear that further investigation of these populations is needed.

Tsuga forrestii (or T. chinensis var. forrestii) has supposedly been represented in cultivation since its original introduction (by Forrest) by a tree at Borde Hill, West Sussex, and propagations from it (Bean 1981b). One of these descendants, however, at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, was recently identified by Aljos Farjon as T. dumosa (A. Coombes, pers. comm. 2008), as was a more recent introduction originally identified as T. forrestii, the 1992 SICH 1123 collection from near Muli, Sichuan. A tree grown at Ness Botanic Gardens from seed collected near Lijiang, Yunnan, by Pan Chih Kang of the Chinese Academy of Forestry in 1980/81, thought to be possibly T. forrestii, also seems to be T. dumosa (H. McAllister, M. Frankis, K. Rushforth, pers. comms. 2008). True T. forrestii does not seem to be in cultivation, but its distinctness is upheld by Havill et al. (2008).