The Gymnosperm Database

Cephalotaxus fortunei foliage

Foliage (Hortus Botanicus Catinensis).

line drawing

Line drawing of var. fortunei; for full size image go to the Flora of China (Fu et al. 1999).


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Conservation status

Cephalotaxus fortunei

Hooker 1850

Common names

Plum-yew, Chinese plum yew (Vidakovic 1991), three-pointed fir (Tripp 1995); 三尖杉 san jian shan [Chinese] (Fu et al. 1999).

Taxonomic notes

Some authors place C. lanceolata in synonymy with this species. Two varieties, the type (syn: C. kaempferi K. Koch 1858; C. fortunei var. concolor Franch. 1899) and var. alpina H.L. Li 1953 (syn: C. alpina (Li) Fu 1984) (Farjon 1998). Fu et al. (1999) provide the following key to the varieties:

Pollen cones distinctly pedunculate; peduncle 2-5 mm; leaves (2.2-)3.5-5 mm wide; aril with numerous indistinct striations var. fortunei
Pollen cones sessile or subsessile; peduncle 0-2 mm; leaves 1.5-3.2(-3.5) mm wide; aril with prominent longitudinal ridges var. alpina


Tree: Shrubs or small trees to 20 m tall, with a trunk to 20 cm dbh; usually multistemmed, with an open, loosely rounded crown (Tripp 1995, Fu et al. 1999). Var. alpina a shrub (Tripp 1995).
Bark: Bark dark red-brown, peeling in strips (Fu et al. 1999).
Branches: Branches, shoots slightly pendant. Leafy branchlets obovate, obtriangular, or ± rectangular in outline, plane, (4-)5-21 × (3-)7-20 cm (Tripp 1995, Fu et al. 1999).
Leaves: Buds small, covered with pointed, glossy, red-brown scale-like leaves which remain on the base of the shoot to the next year. Leaves almost horizontally spreading, borne at 30-110° to branchlet axis; petiole 0.5-2 mm; blade deep green and glossy adaxially, linear-lanceolate, distally gradually attenuate (from proximal 1/3 of blade), falcate or ± straight, flat, (1.5-)3.5-12.5 cm × (1.5-)3.2-5 mm (longest in the genus), leathery but usually rather soft and flexible, midvein 0.2-0.5 mm wide abaxially, stomatal bands (0.8-)1.2-2.1 mm wide, usually of (13-)17-24 rows of stomata, 2-5 × as wide as midvein, marginal bands 0.1-0.4 mm wide, base cuneate or shortly attenuate, asymmetric, margin flat or very narrowly revolute when dry, apex cuspidate, cusp 0.5-2 mm, often breaking off (Vidakovic 1991, Tripp 1995, Fu et al. 1999).
Cones: Pollen-cone capitula of 6-14 cones, distinctly pedunculate (peduncle 2-5 mm), or sessile to subsessile (peduncle 0-2 mm), globose, 6-10 mm in diam.; bracts ovate, largest ca. 2 × 2.5 mm, margin ± entire or erose, apex acute; microsporophylls 6-16, each with 3 or 4 pollen sacs. Seed cones borne 3-6 together; peduncle 3-12 mm; seed scales ca. 1.5 mm. Aril yellow or green initially, turning purple when ripe, 1.4-2.5 × 0.9-1.5 cm, with numerous indistinct striations or prominent longitudinal ridges, apex very shortly mucronate. Seeds ellipsoid, 1.3-2.4 × 0.7-1.4 cm(Fu et al. 1999).
Other: Pollination Apr-May, seed maturity Jun-Oct (Fu et al. 1999). Chromosomes n = 11 are approximately isobrachial and one is heterobrachial with a trabant at the end of the short arm (Vidakovic 1991, Tripp 1995).

Distribution and Ecology

The type variety is found in north Myanmar and China: S Anhui, Fujian, S Gansu, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, S Henan, W Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Yunnan, Zhejiang (Fu et al. 1999). Variety alpina is confined to the mountains of Kham (W Sichuan and NW Yunnan) (Farjon 1998). Found in mixed, coniferous, and broad-leaved forests, thickets, and roadsides at 200-3700 m elevation (Fu et al. 1999); shade tolerant; hardy to Zone 7 (cold hardiness limit between -17.7°C and -12.2°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001, Tripp 1995).

Big tree






Listed as threatened in Viet Nam by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Introduced to Europe ca. 1849 and the U.S. ca. 1858 by Robert Fortune, who collected it in China (Tripp 1995).


See also

The species account at Threatened Conifers of the World.

Last Modified 2017-12-29