Euptelea pleiosperma Hook. f. & Thoms.

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Peter Hoffmann


Owen Johnson (2023)

Recommended citation
Johnson, O. (2023), 'Euptelea pleiosperma' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2023-05-30.


  • Euptelea davidiana Baill.
  • Euptelea delavayi Van Tiegh.
  • Euptelea franchetii Van Tiegh.
  • Euptelea griffithii Hook. f. & Thoms. ex Baill.
  • Euptelea minor Ching

Other taxa in genus


World Conservation Union (formerly the International Union for the Conservation of Nature).
Least Concern
IUCN Red List conservation category: ‘does not qualify for Critically Endangered Endangered Vulnerable or Near Threatened. Widespread and abundant taxa are included in this category.’ ‘Lower Risk’ was formerly used and many tree species are still so-categorised in the Red List.
Critically Endangered
IUCN Red List conservation category: ‘facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild’.
A group of genera more closely related to each other than to genera in other families. Names of families are identified by the suffix ‘-aceae’ (e.g. Myrtaceae) with a few traditional exceptions (e.g. Leguminosae).
(botanical) Contained within another part or organ.
IUCN Red List conservation category: ‘facing a high risk of extinction in the wild’.


Owen Johnson (2023)

Recommended citation
Johnson, O. (2023), 'Euptelea pleiosperma' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2023-05-30.

A small tree or a many-stemmed shrub, to 17 m tall. Leaf ovate to suborbicular, 5–16 × 3–15 cm, sometimes pubescent along the veins and variably glaucous-green beneath; base broadly cuneate (very rarely subtruncate); with an acuminate tip 8–20(–30) mm long; marginal teeth somewhat irregular, 2–4 mm deep; stalk 2–6 cm long. Flowering (in wild) April–May. Samara with (1–)2(–4) seeds, ripening July–August and sometimes persisting until winter. (Fu & Endress 2001; Smith 1946).

Distribution  BhutanMyanmar Unconfirmed in mountains in the north China S Anhui, S Gansu, Guizhou, SW Hebei, W Henan, Hubei, Hunan, E Jiangxi, S Shaanxi, S Shanxi, Sichuan, SE Xizang, N and E Yunnan, NW Zhejiang India In the eastern Himalaya

Habitat Moist valleys, 900–3600 m; often in dense shade.

USDA Hardiness Zone 6

RHS Hardiness Rating H5

Conservation status Least concern (LC)

Euptelea pleiosperma has a wide but scattered distribution across the mountains of mainland east Asia. These populations have probably been isolated from each other in situ since the mid to late Pliocene, resulting in considerable genetic diversity and the evolution of six separate phylogroups (Cao et al. 2016). The first westerner to observe the species was William Griffith, in the Mishmi Hills in the far north-east of India in the early 1860s (Bean 1981); this population has rather silvery-backed leaves, and Chinese plants with leaves greener underneath were subsequently described as a series of new taxa. Since the mid twentieth century, botanists have agreed to treat all these as synonyms for one unusually variable species (Smith 1946). Because of the breadth of its distribution, E. pleiosperma is assessed by the IUCN as of Least Concern, but the vulnerable nature of each sub-population has led some Chinese botanists to treat it as an endangered plant (Zhang et al. 2008).

This tree reached the west in 1896, when the French missionary and botanist Paul Farges sent seeds from north-east Sichuan, China, to the Vilmorin family in Paris (Edwards & Marshall 2019). Ernest Wilson also sent seed from Hubei to Veitch and Sons in England in 1900 (as E. franchetii) (Bean 1981). By this time, the Japanese Euptelea polyandra was already tenuously established in cultivation in Europe; the two species seem to differ very little in terms of their adaptability in cultivation, but E. polyandra with its leaves’ remarkably elongated teeth and ‘drip-tips’ is the more memorably distinctive of the pair.

As yet, neither Euptelea has gained enough notice to be planted outside the largest gardens and collections. In the UK, E. pleiosperma remains slightly scarcer than E. polyandra (Tree Register 2023); in the United States by contrast, the majority of references are to E. pleiosperma, though Randy Stewart’s photographs in his ever-informative Future Plants blog suggest that some specimens grown as that species, like the one in the McCrillis Gardens in Maryland, are likely to be E. polyandra (Stewart 2010). A measure of both species’ obscurity in cultivation in the New World is their total omission from Michael Dirr’s nearly-comprehensive Manual of Woody Landscape Plants (Dirr 2009).

Euptelea appear to be short-lived as garden trees, even in near-ideal conditions. In the warmth and shelter of Agatha Christie’s old garden at Greenway in south Devon (UK), E. pleiosperma grew as a single-stemmed tree with a trunk 19 cm thick in 2004, but died not long after this. One long since lost was hardy enough to reach 6 m at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in 1967, while another, not confirmed to species level, has grown to 8 m still further north in the shelter of the walled gardens at Crathes Castle on Deeside. Among more recent re-introductions, SICH 1737 produces plants with exceptionally handsome foliage which have reached 9 m at Howick Hall in Northumberland (2018), while EN 3536 was the same height in south Cornwall in 2015. SICH 2446 is represented by smaller plants at the Valley Gardens, Windsor, and at Tregrehan in Cornwall (Tree Register 2023); three young specimens derived from this collection, planted in an open position, were killed outright by a late frost in May 2020 at the Yorkshire Arboretum, being caught as sap was in full flow (J. Grimshaw pers. comm. 2023). Nurseries advertising E. pleiosperma online in 2022–3 included Mallet Court and Burncoose in England, Herrenkamper Gärden in Germany, Broken Arrow Nursery in the United States and Greenleaf Nurseries in New Zealand.