A modern reference to temperate woody plants, including updated content from this site and much new material, can be found at Trees and Shrubs Online.




A small group of evergreen shrubs and small or medium-sized trees. Two species (perhaps reducible to one) inhabit the southern USA, the rest are from Asia and the Pacific region. The cultivated species are from China and Japan, but one, O. decora, is from western Asia. They are closely akin to the olive (Olea), and have opposite leaves. Flowers white or yellowish, sometimes unisexual, in small axillary or terminal clusters. Calyx and corolla four-lobed; stamens two. Fruit an oval drupe, usually dark blue or violet. In O. americanus and the other American species, not treated here, the inflorescence is paniculate.

These shrubs are handsome evergreens with a holly-like appearance. They are sometimes propagated by grafting on privet – an undesirable method, for they are healthier and better on their own roots. Cuttings taken about the end of July strike readily if given a little bottom heat. They grow well in any good garden soil, and have no objection to chalk.


Revised by P. S. Green of the Herbarium, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Species articles