An evergreen small tree or shrub up to 20 ft high; young shoots covered with a close, short, brownish down. Leaves lanceolate or narrowly oval, evenly and coarsely toothed, tapered about equally at both ends; 3⁄4 to 21⁄2 in. long, 1⁄4 to 5⁄8 in. wide; bright green and glabrous on both surfaces; very shortly stalked. As in other species of this genus, a large, leaf-like stipule, 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long, toothed and of orbicular to ovate outline, is attached to the base of each leaf, giving the impression that the leaves are in very unequal pairs. Both the leaves and stipules of cut-off shoots turn partially or wholly an inky black after a few days. Flowers small, produced during April in short corymbs of from four to seven blooms on a common-stalk about 1⁄2 in. long; they are soft yellow, the conspicuous part being the stamens; there is a four-lobed calyx but no petals. The entire corymb is only 1 in. or less in diameter, but one is produced from most or all of the leaf-axils of the previous season’s growth, the whole giving a charming effect; the flowers have a faint pleasant perfume and have downy stalks. Fruit globose, 5⁄16 in. wide, of various shades of pale mauve to white, porcelain-like, the calyx persisting at the base, the style at the top. Bot. Mag., t. 9374.
Native of Chile and some bordering parts of Argentina; first described and named by the younger Hooker in 1847; originally found by Charles Darwin on the Tres Montes peninsula in December 1834, whilst on the voyage of the Beagle. It was introduced, apparently for the first time, by H. F. Comber in 1926 and first flowered with Col. Messel at Nymans, Sussex, where Mr Comber’s father, James Comber, was garden manager.
A. lanceolata ranges further south than the other species, but is confined to the cool temperate rain-forest, where atmospheric humidity is almost constantly high, and like so many southern hemisphere plants from such habitats, thrives best where the British climate is at its most oceanic. It is by no means so hardy as A. microphylla, but survived the cold winters of the early ‘sixties in many gardens. It should be given a position sheltered from cold, drying winds, which quickly blacken the leaves. A very handsome evergreen in leaf, flower, and fruit and the most elegant of the azaras in habit.