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Ehretia thyrsiflora (Sieb. & Zucc.) Nakai

Modern name

Ehretia acuminata R.Br.


Cordia thyrsiflora Sieb. & Zucc.

A small deciduous tree 15 to 30 ft high in this country, of open, spreading habit; young shoots soon glabrous, marked with pale spots. Leaves alternate, oval, ovate, or slightly obovate, 3 to 7 in. long, 112 to 3 in. wide, smaller on the flowering shoots, tapered or rounded at the base, short-pointed, toothed; furnished above when young with small appressed hairs which soon fall away, tufted in the vein-axils beneath; stalk 12 to 34 in. long. Flowers fragrant, white, produced in August in terminal pyramidal panicles 3 to 8 in. long; the corolla is 14 in. across, deeply five-lobed; calyx with five rounded lobes. Fruit a globose drupe 16 in. wide, at first orange, finally black; rarely seen in this country. Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 440.

Native of China and Japan; rare in cultivation. The species is interesting botanically but is not showy. It seems highly probable that it is the one to which Hasskarl gave the name E. ovalifolia in 1844. If so, this name would have priority over E. thyrsiflora but, as there is an element of doubt concerning the identity of Hasskarl’s plant, the name is not adopted here (see the note by Dr Turrill accompanying the figure in the Botanical Magazine).

Although tender when young, and liable to have its shoots winter-killed, E. thyrsiflora is perfectly hardy in the adult state at Kew, where there is a tree by King William’s Temple, planted in 1904, which is 30 ft high and 514 ft in girth, with a deeply corrugated bark (1967). There is a specimen 37 ft high at Birr Castle, Co. Offaly, Eire (1966).

A nearly allied, or the same, plant was introduced in 1795 from the Himalaya, and grown in the early part of last century as E. serrata Roxb.

E. macrophylla Wall. – A handsome foliaged plant, not getting beyond the dimensions of a shrub with us, and more tender than E. thyrsiflora. It is frequently killed to the ground at Kew, but sends up stout, erect shoots several feet high during the ensuing summer. Leaves roundish, 4 to 6 in. long, two-thirds to nearly as much wide, rough with small bristles on both surfaces, especially above; young shoots similar. Native of the Himalaya.

A third species is E. dicksonii Hance, a native of China, Formosa, etc., introduced by E. H. Wilson. It is a tree 30 to 35 ft high with slightly downy young shoots. Leaves elliptic, 4 to 8 in. long, rounded varying to slightly cordate or tapered at the base, shortly pointed, more or less downy on both surfaces. Flowers open in May and June in flattish panicles 2 to 4 in. long and broad; corolla white, 25 in. wide. Fruit subglobose, 12 in. wide, greenish yellow. It is over 20 ft high in Messrs Hillier’s nursery at Winchester on chalky soil and grows well at Kew. It is apt to suffer in high winds, but otherwise is hardy.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

The likelihood was mentioned that E. thyrsiflora would have to give way to the earlier name E. ovalifolia Hasskarl. Dr Heine informs us that, judging from an authentic specimen in the Paris Herbarium, there is really no doubt that this is the case. Hasskarl’s description was made from a plant in the Dutch East India Company’s garden at Bogor in Java, where there were several Japanese plants received through the company’s station at Nagasaki.



Other species in the genus