Forest 67 - Japanese Snowbell

Styrax japonicus

Styrax japonicus tree. Photo not from the Arboretum 

Other common names

(Chinese): ye mo li

Origin of the species name

Styrax: classical Greek name derived from a Semitic name for these resin-producing plants; japonicus refers to its occurrence in Japan.



Date planted

August 2011

Styrax japonicus flowers and leaves in Forest 67. Photo by A. Burgess

General description 

This is a small deciduous tree that develops a rounded crown and orange-brown, fissured bark. The leaves are lustrous green above and finely serrated and become yellow and red in autumn. The drooping clusters of flowers are white, bell-shaped and fragrant and the fruit is a greenish-grey round drupe. Height 8m Spread 5m.

Natural distribution and habitat

The species is native to China, Japan, and Korea where it occurs in thickets and forests in mountains and hills at 400-1800m.

Conservation status

It is not considered to be a threatened species.

Planting pattern

Planted in a diamond grid pattern and includes open spaces in the shapes of hexagons, a pentagon and straight bars.


The fruit is edible and can be eaten raw. Oil is obtained from the seed and the fruit can be dried and made into beads. The wood is fine-grained and used to make umbrella handles. The tree is also used in horticulture. As the flowers are showy and several cultivars have been developed, including a dwarf variety, an upright type, one with larger flowers and leathery leaves, and a couple of pink flower varieties.