A deciduous tree 20 to 40 ft high. Leaves broadly ovate, wedge-shaped at the base, the apex drawn out into a long narrow point, 2 to 4 in. long and often three-fourths as much wide, the margins irregularly toothed, but not so markedly so as in E. polyandra, green or grey beneath; stalk half to two-thirds as long as the blade. Flowers as in E. polyandra (q.v.). Fruit flat, narrowly wedge-shaped, notched on one side, borne on a slender stalk 1⁄2 in. long, one- to three-seeded.
A native of the E. Himalaya, Upper Burma, S.W. and W. China; discovered by Griffith in the Mishmi Hills and described in 1864. Three species were later described from China, all from specimens collected by French missionaries, and these have been variously treated by botanists. Hemsley considered that all the Chinese material belonged to one species – E. davidiana – allied to but distinct from E. pleiosperma, but his knowledge of the latter species was based on incomplete material and the characters by which he distinguished it from the Chinese trees do not hold good. The view of Rehder and Wilson was that E. davidiana and E. delavayi both belonged to the synonymy of E. pleiosperma. But E. franchetii was maintained by them as a distinct species occupying an area of China to the east of E. pleiosperma and differing from it in having the leaves green beneath, not glaucous and papillose as in E. pleiosperma. This distinction hardly holds good, however. The leaves of E. pleiosperma are covered beneath with densely packed white cells; those of E. francbetii are essentially the same but the cells are less dense and give more of a honeycomb effect. Furthermore, A. C. Smith (Journ. Arn. Arb., Vol. 27) has pointed out that this difference, such as it is, is not so well correlated with geographical distribution as Rehder and Wilson thought. His view, followed here, is that there is only one species on the mainland of E. Asia, namely E. pleiosperma.
E. pleiosperma was probably not introduced to Britain until 1900, when Wilson sent seed from Hupeh (the plants raised from it have generally been known as E. franchetii). There was an earlier introduction to France by Père Farges and a tree from this seed flowered at Les Barres in 1900.
E. pleiosperma is closely allied to the Japanese E. polyandra, but differs in the more regularly toothed leaves and in the fruits containing usually more than one seed. The foliage of the Wilson introduction dies off a pretty red in the autumn.