A small tree to about 20 ft high in the wild state; young shoots slightly hairy. Leaves 11⁄4 to 2 in. long, ovate to broad-ovate, pointed, usually rounded at the base; margins double-toothed; dark green and soon becoming glabrous above, downy on the midribs and the veins beneath; stalk 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 in. long, downy; stipules narrowly linear, persistent during the winter. Fruit clusters 1 to 2 in. long; bracts ovate, unequal-sided, one side being sharply toothed, the other toothed only at the apex and with a small lobe at the base. Nut ovate, resin-dotted.
A native of N. China, where it is common in open woodland and scrub, and also of Japan; discovered by Turczaninow in 1831 but described from specimens collected ten years later by Kirilov. Farrer introduced it from Kansu in 1914 and trees from his seed are in cultivation at Highdown, Sussex, and at Kew. It makes a small, neat, bushy tree and colours rich brown and orange in the autumn. Mrs Farrer had at Ingleborough a shrubby pendulous form raised from the original seed; this is illustrated in The New Flora and Sylva, Vol. 3, fig. 99 (1931).
var. ovalifolia Winkler C. polyneura Burk., in part, not Franch. – A tree to 30 ft high in the wild state. Leaves ovate to ovate-oblong, sharply but only occasionally double-toothed. Bracts of fruiting catkins not lobed at the base. A native of W. China, introduced to Kew by Henry in 1889 from E. Szechwan. A tree from this seed now measures 38 × 13⁄4 ft (1967). It was originally thought to be C. polyneura Franch.