Xanthoceras sorbifolium, the yellowhorn, shiny leaf yellowhorn, goldenhorn, or Chinese flowering chestnut, is a species of flowering plant in the soapberry family Sapindaceae, and the only species in the genus Xanthoceras. It is native to northern China in the provinces of Gansu, Hebei, Henan, Liaoning, Nei Monggol, Ningxia, Shaanxi, and Shandong.[1] It is also cultivated in Russia, having been imported there since the 19th Century.[2]

Xanthoceras sorbifolia.jpg
1887 illustration
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Sapindaceae
Subfamily: Xanthoceroideae
Genus: Xanthoceras
X. sorbifolium
Binomial name
Xanthoceras sorbifolium

It is a large deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 8 m tall. The leaves are arranged alternately, 12–30 cm long, and are pinnate, with 9–17 leaflets, the leaflets 3–6 cm long, with a sharply serrated margin.[3] The flowers are 2–3 cm in diameter, with five white petals, and are produced in erect panicles 10–20 cm long in mid spring. The fruit is an oval leathery capsule 5–6 cm diameter, which splits into three sections at maturity to release the 6–18 seeds; the seeds are black, 1.5 cm in diameter, resembling a small horse chestnut seed.[4][5]

The genus name Xanthoceras (which translates as "yellow horn") is considered to be the most basal member of the family Sapindaceae.[6] The specific epithet sorbifolium refers to the leaves, which resemble those of the distantly related rowans (Sorbus). It was originally spelled sorbifolia, but this is a grammatical error that was corrected to sorbifolium under the ICBN.[1]

In cultivation in the UK, X. sorbifolium has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[7][8] It is fully hardy, but prefers a sheltered position.

The leaves, flowers, and seeds of yellowhorn are all edible.[9]


  1. ^ a b "Xanthoceras sorbifolium". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  2. ^ Lancaster, Roy (1987). Garden Plants for Connoisseurs. the University of Wisconsin - Madison: Unwin Hyman. pp. 192 (page 47). ISBN 9780044400547.
  3. ^ University of British Columbia Asian Garden Photos: Xanthoceras sorbifolium
  4. ^ Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  5. ^ University of British Columbia Botany Photo of the Day, August 31, 2006: Xanthoceras sorbifolia and Aesculus hippocastanum
  6. ^ Harrington, M. G., Edwards, K. J., Johnson, S. A., Mark W. Chase, M. W., & Gadek, P. A. (2005). Phylogenetic inference in Sapindaceae sensu lato using plastid matK and rbcL DNA sequences. Systematic Botany 30 (2): 366-382. Abstract.
  7. ^ "Xanthoceras sorbifolium". www.rhs.org. Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  8. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 108. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  9. ^ Plants for a Future Database Xanthoceras sorbifolium