An interesting genus of evergreen shrubs and small trees whose headquarters are in Australia and New Zealand, whence come most of the species cultivated in the open air in the British Isles. The others described here are from Japan and China, but the genus is also represented in the Himalaya, the Malaysian and Pacific regions, and in Africa. Remarkably there is one species – P. coriaceum Ait. – on the island of Madeira, which has become exceedingly rare in the wild state, and one in the Canary Islands. The leading characters of the genus are: Leaves alternate. Flowers with five sepals, five petals, and five stamens alternating with the petals. Ovary superior, developing into a capsule with two to five leathery or woody valves. The generic name refers to the resinous or viscid substance by which the seeds are surrounded.
The pittosporums are essentially shrubs for the milder parts of the British Isles. At Kew they can only be grown against a wall. Several of the species are very handsome evergreens, and all here mentioned are charmingly fragrant when in flower. They are easily cultivated and thrive in a light loamy soil. Cuttings taken from the half-ripened wood will root in gentle heat. Seeds ripen in favourable localities, and may also be used.
The flowers in general must be regarded as more notable for their fragrance than their beauty.