Description from Flora of China
Calycanthus praecox Linnaeus, Sp. Pl., ed. 2, 1: 718. 1762; Butneria praecox (Linnaeus) C. K. Schneider; Chimonanthus baokanensis D. M. Chen & Z. I. Dai; C. baokanensis var. yupiensis D. M. Chen & Z. I. Dai; C. caespitosus T. B. Chao et al.; C. fragrans Lindley, nom. illeg. superfl.; C. fragrans var. grandiflorus Lindley; C. parviflorus Rafinesque; C. praecox var. concolor Makino; C. praecox var. grandiflorus (Lindley) Makino; C. praecox var. intermedius Makino; C. praecox var. reflexus B. Zhao; C. yunnanensis W. W. Smith; Meratia fragrans Loiseleur-Deslongchamps, nom. illeg. superfl.; M. praecox (Linnaeus) Rehder & E. H. Wilson; M. yunnanensis (W. W. Smith) S. Y. Hu.
Shrubs or small trees, 3-13 m tall, deciduous or sometimes with persistent leaves. Branchlets grayish brown, quadrangular when young but becoming subterete, glabrous or slightly puberulent, lenticellate; buds usually axillary on branches of previous year; bud scales subcircular, imbricate, outside pubescent. Petiole 0.3-1.8 cm, pubescent; leaf blade ovate, elliptic, broadly elliptic, ovate-elliptic, oblong-elliptic, or sometimes oblong-lanceolate, 5-29 × 2-12 cm, papery to subleathery, abaxially glabrous except for occasional scattered trichomes on veins, adaxially roughly scabrous, secondary veins 4-6 on each side of midvein, base cuneate to rounded, apex acute, acuminate, or sometimes caudate. Flowers on branches of previous year, solitary or paired, appearing generally before leaves, 1.5-4 cm in diam., sweetly fragrant. Pedicel 2-8 mm. Tepals 15-21, yellow but inner ones usually with purplish red pigment, 0.5-2 × 0.5-1.5 cm; outer tepals orbicular to obovate, puberulent, apex truncate or rounded; median tepals elliptic to oblong-elliptic, glabrous or sometimes margin ciliate, apex rounded to acute; inner tepals orbicular to oblong, glabrous or sometimes margin ciliate, base distinctly clawed, apex rounded. Stamens 5-8, 2.5-4 mm; filaments broad, longer, equal, or rarely shorter than anthers, basally pubescent or glabrous; anthers glabrous; connective puberulous or glabrous, apex acute; staminodes 2-15, subulate to linear-lanceolate, 2-3 mm, pubescent. Carpels 5-15, hirtellous at base; style ca. 3 × as long as ovary, pubescent at base. Pseudocarp urceolate, ovoid-ellipsoid, or obovoid-ellipsoid, 2-6 × 1-2.5 cm, subwoody, apex constricted, apical appendages 9 or 10, tapered lanceolate, with trichomes. Achenes 3-11, brown, ellipsoid to reniform, 15-16.5 × 5-5.6 mm, pubescent at base. Fl. Oct-Mar, fr. Apr-Nov. 2n = 22*.
This species is cultivated throughout most of China as well as in other temperate areas of the world as a decorative plant, particularly for its sweetly fragrant flowers. The leaves, roots, flowers, and seeds are used medicinally.
Because of its extensive and long cultivation in China, some of the reported distribution is uncertain as to it actually being native.
● Montane forests; 500-1100 m. Anhui, Fujian, Guizhou, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Shaanxi, Shandong, Sichuan, Yunnan, Zhejiang.