An evergreen tree 20 to 40 ft high, densely branched; young shoots glabrous, darkly coloured. Leaves clustered towards the end of each season’s growth, narrowly oval or oblong, tapered at each end, 2 to 5 in. long, 1⁄2 to 11⁄4 in. wide, perfectly glabrous on both surfaces, dark glossy green above, paler beneath; margins often wavy, stalk 1⁄4 to 3⁄4 in. long. Flowers very fragrant, 1⁄16 in. wide, yellowish, densely and numerously packed in a cluster of short corymbs terminating the branch, each corymb 1 in. or less long; flower-stalks downy; petals strap-shaped, 1⁄8 in. long; sepals much smaller. Fruits 1⁄4 in. long, egg-shaped.
Native of New Zealand, where it occurs on both islands up to 2,500 ft altitude. Requiring winter protection at Kew, it is perfectly hardy in the milder parts more to the south and west and makes a handsome evergreen tree there, up to 30 ft or more high. The honey-like scent of the flowers is very charming and widely diffused. The leaves are also fragrant when crushed, and from them and the flowers, mixed with fat, the Maoris made an unguent with which they anointed their bodies.
cv. ‘Variegatum’. – In this form the leaf has a creamy-white margin of irregular width. Seen in Cornish gardens, usually as a small tree of columnar shape, with its peculiarly clean, clear leaf-colouring, it strikes one as about the most attractive of all variegated shrubs grown in the open air. It flowers just as freely as the normal green form, and is said to be hardier. It was introduced to cultivation in the early 1880s. There is an example 34 ft high at Bosahan, Cornwall, and two almost as tall at Castlewellan, Co. Down.