Description from Flora of China
Shrubs or small trees to 7 m. Leafy branchlets ascending or suberect, broadly rectangular to oblong-elliptic in outline, 4.5-8 × 8-15 cm, axis green in 1st year, greenish yellow to yellowish red in 2nd and 3rd years, quadrangular or subterete in cross section. Leaves borne at 45-95° to branchlet axis, subsessile or petiole to 3 mm, dark green adaxially, linear or linear-lanceolate, falcate or ± straight, 2-11 cm × 5-11 mm, leathery, with sclereids, mottled adaxially when fresh, rugose with transverse striations at ca. 90° to midvein when dry, midvein raised adaxially, scarcely so abaxially, 1-1.2 mm wide with a very narrow, indistinct green band 0.15-0.2 mm wide on either side, whole midvein band 1.2-2 mm wide, stomatal bands white, 1-2 mm wide, narrower than marginal bands, of 15-25 rows, marginal bands 1.4-3 mm wide, base cuneate to attenuate, asymmetric, margin flat or very narrowly revolute, apex dark, callose, rounded to sharply triangular, obtuse on basal 1-4 (often more) leaves of each branchlet, often acuminate on others. Pollen-cone racemes borne (1 or)2-4(-10) together, 1.5-6.5 cm; cones in ca. 12 pairs, ovoid, ca. 3.5 × 2.5-3.2 mm; bracts ca. 6 at base of otherwise naked peduncle, distal bract ca. 2.5 × 2 mm, keeled; microsporophylls 6-8, peltate, each with (2 or)3(-5) pollen sacs. Seed-bearing structures with peduncle to ca. 2/3 × length of subtending leaf. Aril bright red when ripe. Seed finally red, narrowly obovoid-ellipsoid, 1.9-2.6 × 1-1.3 cm, with small, mucronulate apex; peduncle 1.1-1.4 cm, compressed-quadrangular, dilated below bracts, naked. Pollination Apr, seed maturity Oct. 2n = 24.
A vulnerable species in China.
H. L. Li (J. Arnold. Arbor. 33: 195. 1952) separated plants from W Hubei and Sichuan as Amentotaxus cathayensis, on the basis of leaf shape and length, and the stomatal bands being narrower (15-20 rows of stomata), instead of broader (22-25 rows in A. argotaenia), than the marginal bands. Amentotaxus cathayensis has not usually been accepted because these characters are not constant, although the stomatal band character did usually separate the two taxa in the sample examined by the authors. They can also be differentiated by presence (A. cathayensis) or absence (A. argotaenia) of a distinct petiole 1-3 mm. More research is needed to settle the status of A. cathayensis, which is here included provisionally in the synonymy of var. argotaenia.
Limestone mountains, forests, ravines, shady and damp stream banks; 300-1100 m. Fujian, S Gansu, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, W Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, NW Jiangxi, C and SE Sichuan, Taiwan, SE Xizang, S Zhejiang [N Vietnam]