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Tree 5–12 m, dbh ≥ 40 cm. Branchlets stout and greyish brown, densely tomentose when young. Leaves clustered at branch apices, leathery, (9–)10–19 × (1.5–)3–7 cm, oblong to lanceolate or obovate, initially tomentose on both surfaces, upper surface lustrous, midrib prominent, 10–12 secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins irregularly crenate and revolute, apex caudate to acuminate; petiole 2–4 cm long, glabrous; stipules caducous. Panicles 6–8 cm diameter, densely tomentose. Flowers 1.5–1.8 cm diameter; hypanthium cup-shaped, brown-tomentose; sepals acute to obtuse, brown-tomentose below, slightly shorter than hypanthium; petals white, orbicular to obovate; stamens 20. Fruit yellowish red, subglobose, 1.2–2 cm diameter with reflexed sepals. Flowering May to June, fruiting June to August (China). Gu et al. 2003. Distribution CHINA: Guangdong, Hainan; TAIWAN; VIETNAM. Habitat Broadleaved forest on slopes and in valleys, between 1000 and 2100 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 8. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Gu et al. 2003; NT323. Cross-reference K43 (as E. deflexicalyx).
In the warmer parts of the United States Eriobotrya deflexa is widely used as an evergreen landscaping tree, valued for its handsome leathery foliage that flushes a warm red-bronze, and its abundant panicles of white flowers. The plant is often pruned to form a single stem with a dense rounded crown. It is, however, regarded as being short-lived, with a susceptibility to fireblight (Gilman & Watson 1993a). In our area it is quite widely grown and readily available commercially, but its tolerances are not yet clear. According to Sean Hogan (pers. comm. 2006) it is marginal in Portland, but does better along the Oregon coast. At Tregrehan it is making a good specimen, and it is also grown at Glasnevin, against a warm wall. It is certainly a tree to try in warm sheltered situations.
A selected clone named ‘Bronze Improved’ is sold on the strength of enhanced coloration in the spring flush. There is also an interesting series of bigeneric hybrids between E. deflexa and Rhaphiolepis indica, which have recently been named ×Rhaphiobotrya A.J. Coombes (Coombes & Robertson 2008). These tend to be rather shrubby but are potentially small trees, with very attractive leaves. The best known is ‘Coppertone’, selected as a chance seedling by Ernest Bordier of Bordier’s Nursery, Irvine, California in about 1993, but there are others, including ‘Majestic Beauty’ (often listed as a Rhaphiolepis). Both of these have good copper-coloured young leaves and abundant flowers of white or pale pink. ‘Coppertone’ is widely grown in the warmer areas of the United States and is hardier than E. deflexa in Portland (S. Hogan, pers. comm. 2006). Dirr (1998) indicates that ‘Majestic Beauty’ is killed at about –20 ºC.