1. Family: Sapindaceae Juss.
    1. Genus: Xanthoceras Bunge
      1. Xanthoceras sorbifolia Bunge

        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.

    [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.

    Uses

    The edible fruits and seeds of yellowhorn are eaten in China. Xanthoceras sorbifolium is cultivated as an ornamental.

    Cultivation

    Yellowhorn can be grown in most soil types. It is still quite unusual in British gardens, despite the fact that it is elegant, free-flowering and hardy.

    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.

    View details and images of specimens

    A specimen of wood from X. sorbifoliumis 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.

    Images

    Distribution

    Found In:

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

    Common Names

    English
    Yellowhorn

    Xanthoceras sorbifolia Bunge appears in other Kew resources:

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

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

    Accepted in:

    • [1] Flora of China Editorial Committee (2007) Flora of China 12: 1-534. Science Press (Beijing) & Missouri Botanical Garden Press (St. Louis)

    Literature

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

    Sources

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2017). Published on the internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp
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    Kew Species Profiles
    Kew Species Profiles
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