Epaulette Tree

Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
A rare find, this epaulette tree (Pterostyrax hispida) is the only one of its kind on the Yale Campus. The genus name refers to its fruits, "pteron" meaning "wing" and "styrax" refering to the ribbed fruit. The species name, "hispidus", references the fruit's bristly texture.
Natalie Drucker
Collected Data
Tree shape: 
Date of tree entry: 
6.25 m
Diameter at breast height: 
0.13 m

The bark of the epaulette tree is tan and smooth in the early stages of its life. The color later matures to a silvery gray and the bark loses its smoothness in old age.
Twigs & branches
The branches of the epaulette tree droop at their ends but are resistant to breaking. Twig color is generally gray and thickness is thin to medium. The tree usually grows with multiple trunks although it can be trained to a single trunk.
During the summer, the leaves of the epaulette tree are light green and carry a silver-like lining on their undersides. They alternate along the entire length of the branch and vary in size, often 3-8 inches long and 1-4 inches wide. When fall arrives, the leaves turn yellow before they fall to ground. The ovate leaves exhibit fine-toothed leaf margins and have a pinnate venous structure. Common examples of this venation are found in oak and elm leaves.
Reproductive Structures
The tree gets its common name from its creamy white flowers which resemble epaulettes, the ornamental shoulder covering found on select military uniforms. They bloom in late May into early June, a time when only a few other tree species flower. The flowers hang like bells in nine-inch long panicles (clusters) and are prominent on the tree's bottom branches. The flowers themselves are five-lobed, fragrant, and small, and develop into small spindle-like fruits.
The Epaulette tree bears small spindle-like fruit, often no more than a half-inch in length. The fruit is a bristly, dry drupe (or fruit with a single pit) and it clusters with other drupes and clings to its branch throughout the winter.
  • Winter Epaulette Tree
  • Spring Epaulette Tree
  • Summer Epaulette Tree
Natural range of distribution: 
While Epaulettes require full sun and prefer bushy habitats with acidic, well-drained, damp soils. They can withstand moderate drought periods and slightly alkaline conditions.
Origin, history, and uses: 

Originating from the mountains of China and Japan, the epaulette was introduced to the United Kingdom in 1875 and was brought to the United States thereafter. Horticulturists and landscapers enjoy the tree for its fragrance and ornamental landscape potential. In full bloom, its lush white panicles contrast vividly with its green leaves.

The epaulette tree blooms in middle to late May, usually two weeks after its leaves have grown to maturity. The epaulette retains its flowers throughout the summer and starts producing fruit shortly after blooming. Eventually, the clusters dry out and stay on the tree throughout the winter or are carried off by small mammals that disperse the seeds. As the summer turns to fall, the epaulette leaves turn a soft yellow.

“BlueBell Arboretum & Nursery Mail Order Trees, Shrubs, Conifers and Woody Climbers.” BlueBell Nursery. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2014. <http://www.bluebellnursery.com/catalogue/trees/Pterostyrax/P/2212>

“Pterostyrax Hispida - Plant Finder.” Pterostyrax Hispida - Plant Finder. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2014. <http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.as…

Conlon, Hugh. “Wild Epaulette Tree Can Be Tamed.” What Grows There. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2014. <http://www.whatgrowsthere.com/grow/2011/05/26/wild-epaulette-tree-can-be….

“Shrubs.” Jersey Cottage Nursery. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2014. <http://www.jerseycottagenursery.co.uk/shrubs_4.html>.

Redmon, Robert. “Pterostyrax Hispida: Fragrant Epaulette Tree.” Pterostyrax Hispida: Fragrant Epaulette Tree. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2014. <http://www.gardenweb.com/cyberplt/plants/pterosty.html>.

Gilman, Edward F., and Dennis G. Watson. “Pterostyrax Hispida: Fragrant Epaulette Tree1.” EDIS New Publications RSS. University of Florida IFAS Extension, n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2014. <http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/st534>.

“Pterostyrax Hispida AGM.” RHS Plant Selector / RHS Gardening. Royal Horticultural Society, 2002. Web. 30 Mar. 2014. <http://apps.rhs.org.uk/plantselector/plant?plantid=1567>.

Toomer, Simon. “Autumn: The First Signs.” Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum - Blog. Royal Patron HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2014. <http://www.fowa.org.uk/your_westonbirt/blog/?p=2701>.

Media and Arts

Reference to the epaulettes on a soldier’s uniform…

Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.

Ebenezer Elliott. 1781–1849
587. Battle Song
DAY, like our souls, is fiercely dark;  
        What then? ‘Tis day!  
We sleep no more; the cock crows—hark!  
        To arms! away!  
They come! they come! the knell is rung     5
        Of us or them;  
Wide o’er their march the pomp is flung  
        Of gold and gem.  
What collar’d hound of lawless sway,  
        To famine dear—   10
What pension’d slave of Attila,  
        Leads in the rear?  
Come they from Scythian wilds afar,  
        Our blood to spill?  
Wear they the livery of the Czar?   15
        They do his will.  
Nor tassell’d silk, nor epaulette,  
        Nor plume, nor torse—  
No splendour gilds, all sternly met,  
        Our foot and horse.   20
But, dark and still, we inly glow,  
        Condensed in ire!  
Strike, tawdry slaves, and ye shall know  
        Our gloom is fire.  
In vain your pomp, ye evil powers,   25
        Insults the land;  
Wrongs, vengeance, and the Cause are ours,  
        And God’s right hand!  
Madmen! they trample into snakes  
        The wormy clod!   30
Like fire, beneath their feet awakes  
        The sword of God!  
Behind, before, above, below,  
        They rouse the brave;  
Where’er they go, they make a foe,   35
        Or find a grave.