A shrub up to 12 ft high, with erect stems, the year-old bark brown and peeling; young shoots ribbed. Leaves ovate to oval-lanceolate, broadly wedge-shaped or nearly rounded at the base, distantly toothed, 11⁄2 to 4 in. long, 5⁄8 to 2 in. wide; glabrous except for a few hairs on one or both surfaces and on the leaf-stalk, which is 1⁄6 to 1⁄3 in. long. Flowers yellowish white, heavily scented, about 1 in. across, produced in terminal racemes of five to nine blossoms. Petals oval, 3⁄8 in. wide; calyx-lobes downy at the margins, the tube and flower-stalk either glabrous or slightly downy; styles separated at the upper third.
Native of S.E. Europe and Asia Minor; cultivated in Britain since the 16th century, probably before. It flowers in early June. This is the best-known species of mock orange in gardens, but is not in the first rank. The fragrance of its flowers is pleasing out-of-doors, but may become too insistent if the plants are numerous or near sitting-room windows. The odour is too strong for the flowers to be enjoyed in a cut state indoors. Over three hundred years ago Gerard, the herbalist, wrote:
‘They have a pleasant sweete smell, but in my judgment troubling and molesting the head in very strange manner. I once gathered the flowers and laid them in my chamber window, which smelled more strongly after they had lain together a few howers, but with such a pontick and unacquainted savor that they awaked me from sleepe, so that I could not take rest till I had cast them out of my chamber.’
cv. ‘Aureus’ (‘Foliis Aureis’). – Leaves bright yellow, and very effective in spring, becoming duller after midsummer.
cv. ‘Nanus’ (‘Duplex’). – This ‘is of humble growth, seldom rising above three feet high; the leaves are shorter … and approach near to an oval form; they are but little indented on their edges. The flowers come out singly from the side of the branches, and have a double or treble row of petals … this sort flowers very rarely, so is not much esteemed’ (Miller, Gard. Dict., ed. 1768). In the earlier editions of his Dictionary, Miller also mentioned a form of normal growth which produced a mixture of single and double flowers, but mostly single. ‘Deutziiflorus’, of more recent origin, is also a double-flowered variety of dwarf habit, but it flowers more freely.
cv. ’ Variegatus’. – Leaves with an irregular border of creamy white.
P. ‘Salicifolius’. – A plant of uncertain status, usually considered as a variant of P. coronarius, distinct in its leaves, which are 2 to 4 in. long, 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. wide, sparsely toothed. Dr Hu points out that its flowers are abnormal but show that the plant does not belong to P. coronarius.