Benthamia capitata (Wallich) Nakai; B. fragifera Lindley; Benthamidia capitata (Wallich) H. Hara; Cornus capitata subsp. brevipedunculata (W. P. Fang & Y. T. Hsieh) Q. Y. Xiang; C. capitata subsp. emeiensis (W. P. Fang & Y. T. Hsieh) Q. Y. Xiang; Cynoxylon capitatum (Wallich) Nakai; C. glabriusculum Pojarkova; C. yunnanense Pojarkova; Dendrobenthamia capitata (Wallich ex Roxburgh) Hutchinson; D. capitata var. emeiensis (W. P. Fang & Y. T. Hsieh) W. P. Fang & W. K. Hu; D. emeiensis W. P. Fang & Y. T. Hsieh; D. tonkinensis W. P. Fang var. brevipedunculata (W. P. Fang & Y. T. Hsieh) W. P. Fang & W. K. Hu.
Trees or shrubs, evergreen, 3–15(–20) m tall. Bark brown or blackish gray; young branches grayish green, pubescent with white appressed trichomes; old branches grayish brown, nearly glabrous. Flower buds globose, exposed, subtended by four small green, linear-lanceolate bracts; leaf buds exposed. Leaf blade grayish green on both surfaces, narrowly elliptic or oblong-lanceolate, 5–12 × 2–3.5(–4) cm, thinly leathery to leathery, abaxially densely pubescent with thick white appressed trichomes, scabrous, axils of veins often pitted or rarely with a cluster of trichomes, veins 3 or 4, base cuneate to broadly cuneate, apex acuminate to shortly caudate. Cymes globose, ca. 1.2 cm in diam., 50–100-flowered; bracts white, obovate or broadly obovate, rarely orbicular, 3.5–6.2 × 1.5–5 cm. Calyx tube ca. 1.2 mm, hardly lobed to conspicuously 4-lobed; lobes rounded. Petals oblong, 3–4 mm. Styles cylindrical, ca. 1.5 mm, densely pubescent with white trichomes. Infructescences compressed or subglobose, 1.5–2.5 cm in diam., pubescent with small white trichomes, purple red at maturity; peduncle (1.5–) 4–5(–8) cm, stout. Fl. May–Jul, fr. Sep–Nov.
Evergreen and mixed forests; 1000–3200 m. Guizhou, Sichuan, Xizang, Yunnan [Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal].
The ripe, sweet fruit is edible, the bark is used medicinally, and the branches and leaves are used for tannin.
At the eastern edge of its range in W Guizhou, Cornus capitata comes into contact with C. elliptica and the distinction between the two is somewhat obscured. Intermediates with leaves like C. elliptica but infructescences like C. capitata, or vice versa, are found. Additionally, there are some sparsely pubescent individuals with fine, white trichomes and leaves smooth to the touch abaxially (unlike either C. capitata or C. elliptica, both of which are densely pubescent with coarse trichomes and scabrous) and compressed globose infructescences (like C. capitata) borne on slender peduncles (like C. elliptica). These plants may represent hybrids between the two species in their region of contact, or incomplete infraspecific differentiation. The two taxa are distinguished primarily by the peduncle (stout vs. slender) and shape of the infructescence (compressed globose vs. globose) and whether the axils of the veins are pitted or not. However, as discussed above, a comparison of allozymes from a few specimens of the two taxa showed significantly different profiles. Additional molecular analyses should help to clarify the origin of this variation.