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Xanthoceras sorbifolium was described by Joseph Hooker (Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew from 1865-1885) in 1887 as '…one of the most attractive and interesting hardy garden shrubs that has been introduced for many years'. It was originally collected near Beijing in about 1830 by the botanist Alexander von Bunge (1803-1890), when he was accompanying an overland mission to the capital from St Petersburg. It was brought into cultivation in Europe in 1868, when the botanist and missionary Père David (1826-1900) sent seeds and live plants to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. David reported that although he had only seen wild plants in a small and mountainous area of China, the tree was well-known in Beijing and much cultivated by the Chinese, who ate the seeds.

Xanthoceras sorbifolium (yellowhorn)

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description
Yellowhorn is a very attractive bush, or small tree, bearing sprays of elegant white flowers on bare branches in May or June.

Xanthoceras sorbifolium was described by Joseph Hooker (Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew from 1865-1885) in 1887 as '…one of the most attractive and interesting hardy garden shrubs that has been introduced for many years'. It was originally collected near Beijing in about 1830 by the botanist Alexander von Bunge (1803-1890), when he was accompanying an overland mission to the capital from St Petersburg. It was brought into cultivation in Europe in 1868, when the botanist and missionary Père David (1826-1900) sent seeds and live plants to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. David reported that although he had only seen wild plants in a small and mountainous area of China, the tree was well-known in Beijing and much cultivated by the Chinese, who ate the seeds.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Native to north and north-east China (where it is found in Gansu, Hebei, Henan, Nei Mongol, Ningxia, Shaanxi, Shandong and Shanxi provinces) and Korea.

Description

A deciduous, leafy bush or small tree growing up to 5 m tall and bearing reddish-brown branches. The leaves are glossy dark green on the upper side and paler below. The leaves are up to 30 cm long, held on a short petiole (leaf-stalk), borne alternately on the stem and are pinnate (divided into leaflets). The leaflets are narrow, 4-5 cm long and have serrated margins. The flowers appear in May or June (before the leaves) in sprays up to 25 cm long. Individual flowers are white, with streaks of greenish-yellow, turning to red at the base. The fruit is a round or pear-shaped capsule up to 6 cm long, revealing a spongy, white inner surface when it splits into three sections to release the seeds, which are round, purplish-brown and edible.

This species at Kew

A fine specimen of Xanthoceras sorbifolium can be seen on the lawn outside the Princess of Wales Conservatory where it has grown into a small, spreading tree.Pressed and dried specimens of Xanthoceras sorbifolium , including one collected by Alexander von Bunge, are held in Kew's Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world, by appointment. The details, including images, of some of these specimens can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

A specimen of wood from X. sorbifolium is held in the behind-the-scenes Economic Botany Collection.

Distribution
China
Ecology
Rocky slopes on hills and mountains.
Conservation
Not evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria.
Hazards

None known.

[KSP]
Use
Ornamental, edible seeds.

Native to:

China North-Central, China Southeast, Inner Mongolia, Korea

Introduced into:

Uzbekistan

English
Yellowhorn

Xanthoceras sorbifolium Bunge appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
s.coll. [s.n.], China K000701255
Bunge, A.A.von [s.n.], China K000701254
s.coll. [s.n.], China K000701253

First published in Mém. Acad. Imp. Sci. St.-Pétersbourg Divers Savans 2: 85 (1834)

Accepted by

  • Wu, Z., Raven, P.H. & Hong, D. (eds.) (2007). Flora of China 12: 1-534. Science Press (Beijing) & Missouri Botanical Garden Press (St. Louis).

Literature

Kew Species Profiles

  • Franchet, A.R. (1884). Plantae davidianae ex Sinarum imperio. Paris.
  • Hooker, J.D. (1887). Xanthoceras sorbifolia. Curtis’s Bot. Mag. 113: tab. 6923.

Kew Backbone Distributions

  • Vvedensky, A.I. (ed.) (1959). Flora Uzbekistana 4: 1-507. Izd-va Akademii nauk Uzbekskoi SSR, Tashkent.
  • Wu, Z., Raven, P.H. & Hong, D. (eds.) (2007). Flora of China 12: 1-534. Science Press (Beijing) & Missouri Botanical Garden Press (St. Louis).

Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Science Photographs
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0