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Xanthoceras sorbifolium, the yellowhorn, shiny leaf yellowhorn, goldenhorn, or Chinese flowering chestnut, is a woody oil tree species in the 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] The genus name Xanthoceras (which translates as "yellow horn") is considered to be the most basal member of the family Sapindaceae.[3] 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]X. sorbifolium is an ancient tree species. It is said it can live up to 2,000 years.[4] It is a sacred tree planted in temples in northern China, because there is no Ficus religiosa in the north. It is also used in traditional Chinese, Mongolian and Tibetan medicine.[4] In Bencao Gangmu, it is called '天仙果Heavenly Fairy Fruit'.[5] Tenacious X. sorbifolium can grow in snow and drought like in Gobi Desert. Each organ of X. sorbifolium can provide multiple uses.[4] It has very high alimentaire value, medicinal value, ornamental value and ecological value. In cultivation in the UK, X. sorbifolium has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[6][7]

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.[8] 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.[9][10]The shells of the fruits and seeds are very hard, so that they are best protected during the growth process.[5] Generally, X. sorbifolium only blooms white flowers. In the process of multiple crosses performed by the '西北文冠果基地/Northwest X. sorbifolium base' ("using 56 seeds of X.sorbifolium from all over the country to make them natural hybrids, in order to increase fruit yield"), unexpectedly, the flower color also changed from single to multiple.[5]


  • The leaves, flowers, and seeds of yellowhorn are all edible.[11] "Both the pulp and the kernel can be eaten raw or used as an ingredient for cooking". "The kernels taste like chestnuts". "Both are nutritious". "Ripe seeds can produce protein drinks".[4]X.sorbifolium has "a long flowering period, fragrant flowers, large nectar content, and rich reducing sugar, it is a high-quality nectar source in early spring in the north" of China. It is worthwhile for beekeepers to produce honey with a special flavor.[4] According to medical research papers on X. sorbifolium in the United States and China, "the fruit peel extract can inhibit the cells of ovary cancer, cervical cancer and Melanoma".[12]The husk has two major values: "the raw material of furfural, which has a wide range of industrial uses", and "the raw material for medicines for treating urinary system diseases".[13]
  • "Branches and trunk are effective medicines for treating rheumatism".[13] The leaves can be used to make tea, "which can diuresis, remove rheumatism, and lower blood pressure". It also has "the effects of sterilization, anti-inflammatory, reducing fat, anti-oxidation"... etc. "The leaves contain 19.18% to 23% protein, which is higher than that of black tea, and the caffeine content is close to that of scented tea".[4]

"One thousand flowers one fruit"Edit

X.sorbifolium has a long history and is distributed in a wide area, but few people knew about it. In 2000, no information about it could be found on the Internet.[4] Also in this year, a person who will be hailed as the "pioneer of the X. sorbifolium industry" appeared.[15] His name is 马成福/Ma Chengfu, a reportage writer who pays attention to ecology and people's livelihood. His works "《流血的石羊河》/The Bleeding Shiyang River" and "《只有和谐是良药》/Only Harmony Is the Best Medicine" have been compiled into college textbooks.[16] Ma Chengfu was born in August 1968 in a poor farmer's family in Jingtai County, Gansu. Jingtai is located at the eastern end of the Hexi Corridor and south of the Tengger Desert. Since childhood, he suffered from drought, water shortage, and sandstorm in the desert climate. This is why he has been thinking about whether there is a tree species that can improve the ecological environment of his hometown and create economic benefits at the same time. To this end, he traveled all over the Hexi Corridor.[15] During a visit in 2000, at the edge of the barren Tengger Desert, Ma Chengfu suddenly saw some trees that grow well and bear fruit (at the time he didn't know they were X.sorbifolium), which immediately raised his confidence again. Since then, he has embarked on a long journey of R&D and entrepreneurship of X.sorbifolium without fear of hardships. There are two main reasons why X.sorbifolium has not been developed into a commercial crop in the past: "difficulty in transplanting and low fruiting rate". "千花一果/One thousand flowers one fruit" should be a pity for it in the past. After repeated failures, Ma Chengfu solved these two problems and developed the high-yield and high-quality X.sorbifolium. The X.sorbifolium seedlings cultivated by Ma Chengfu's team-'西北文冠果基地/Northwest X. sorbifolium base' "have gone out of Gansu, spread to Northwest, Northeast, and North China, and introduced to Sichuan, Jiangsu, Hubei and other southern regions".[15]

In the past two decades, X.sorbifolium has also attracted other R&D teams. For example, in Qiu County, Hebei, the planting area in 2018 has reached several thousand "亩/666.67m2".[17] China's first X.sorbifolium research and development, processing, and sales enterprise also appeared in Qiu County, and achieved a multi-win situation of ecological, economic, and social benefits.[18] In April 2021, the "X.sorbifolium Industry Development and Medicinal Value Summit Forum" was held in Qiu County, expecting to attract more entrepreneurs to develop the economic value and medicinal value of X.sorbifolium, and create an industry-university-research cooperation platform to promote scientific research and innovation achievements.[18]


  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. ^ 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.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "神奇的文冠果,传奇的马成福!" (in Chinese). 中国专家报道. Retrieved 2022-12-23.
  5. ^ a b c "文冠果之恋" (in Chinese). 法律头条网. Retrieved 2022-12-23.
  6. ^ "Xanthoceras sorbifolium". www.rhs.org. Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  7. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 108. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  8. ^ University of British Columbia Asian Garden Photos: Xanthoceras sorbifolium
  9. ^ Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  10. ^ University of British Columbia Botany Photo of the Day, August 31, 2006: Xanthoceras sorbifolia and Aesculus hippocastanum
  11. ^ Plants for a Future Database Xanthoceras sorbifolium
  12. ^ 劉景仁, 張建國、劉大智 (2016). 最新科學抗癌藥用植物圖鑑 Current Scientific Anticancer Medicinal Plants. Taichung, Taiwan: 晨星. pp. 509 (474). ISBN 978-986443169-4.
  13. ^ a b c "经济效益分析怎么写(文冠果种植经济效益分析)" (in Chinese). 高考志愿网. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  14. ^ a b "马成福和他的文冠果产业" (in Chinese). www.agri.cn. Retrieved 2022-12-23.
  15. ^ a b c "极端天气需用极品文冠果种苗" (in Chinese). 河北视窗网. Retrieved 2022-12-25.
  16. ^ "關於文冠果" (in Chinese). www.xncx.gov.cn. Retrieved 2022-12-25.
  17. ^ "生生不息文冠树" (in Chinese). www.81.cn. Retrieved 2022-12-25.
  18. ^ a b "文冠果產業發展暨藥用價值高峰論壇在邱縣舉行" (in Chinese). www.he.people.com.cn. Retrieved 2022-12-25.