A tree 40 to 50 ft high, young branches glabrous, or soon becoming so. Leaves thin, 21⁄2 to 51⁄2 in. long, 11⁄2 to 31⁄2 in. wide, broadly ovate with a very oblique, sometimes slightly heart-shaped base, apex slender-pointed; margins distantly and minutely toothed towards the point, but quite entire at the lower half, upper surface nearly glabrous, lower one covered with a close grey felt, and with small tufts in the vein-axils; stalks slender, downy, 1 to 21⁄2 in. long; floral bract 3 to 5 in. long, 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. wide, stellately downy.
Native of Central China; described from a specimen collected by Henry in 1888. It is a variable species. Typically, as described above, the leaves are finely and obscurely toothed, partly entire, but such forms are an extreme; more commonly they are distinctly though finely mucronate-serrate throughout. Again, though the young growths and buds are virtually glabrous in the typical state, they are markedly woolly in var. chinensis (Szysz.) Rehd. & Wils. This variety, originally described as T. miqueliana var. chinensis (also from a specimen collected by Henry), has quite strongly toothed leaves, almost glabrous beneath. There is also variation in the length of the floral-bracts, and in the length of the free part of the peduncle, which is sometimes very short, so that the cymes appear to be almost sessile and greatly overtopped by the bract. According to Wilson, both T. tuan and the var. chinensis are common in Hupeh.
Both T. tuan and the var. chinensis are said to have been introduced to this country by Wilson when collecting for Veitch, but there is no record of plants having been distributed. A tree at Borde Hill, Sussex, was bought at the Aldenham sale as T. tuan var. chinensis and planted in 1933. Having glabrous buds and young shoots it is not the variety, and how it came to Aldenham is unknown. The leaves are paper-thin, pale matt-green, finely toothed throughout, thinly stellate-downy and whitish beneath. The violet-scented flowers are freely borne in late summer, about nine to thirteen in each long-stalked cyme. It has made an open-crowned tree measuring 46 × 31⁄4 ft (1976).