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A small evergreen tree to about 40 ft high in the wild; twigs slender, glabrous. Leaves leathery, 2 to 4 in. long, oblong or oblanceolate, rarely obovate, acute or sometimes rounded at the apex, cuneate at the base, almost glabrous on both surfaces when mature, the upper glossy, margins entire or with a few sharp mucronate teeth near the apex; stalk to 1⁄2 in. long, stout. Flowers borne in stalked clusters in the axils of the current season’s growth (occasionally on that of the previous year), the male and female on different trees; peduncles up to 3⁄4 in. long, those of female plants bearing one to three flowers. Fruits about 1⁄4 in. wide, red to almost yellow. Nutlets ribbed.
A native of the south-eastern USA in swamps and by rivers, north to Virginia, west to Texas; also of Cuba. Although introduced in 1726 (by Mark Catesby) it has never been common in Britain, most of the plants grown under the name being I. vomitoria (I. cassine Walt., not L.). Nothing useful can be said about either its hardiness or its garden value in Britain.
I. myrtifolia Walt. I. cassine var. myrtifolia (Walt.) Sarg. – This species is closely allied to the preceding but differs in its smaller leaves 3⁄8 to 1 in. long (rarely more), 3⁄8 to 3⁄4 in. wide, with the midrib very prominent beneath, and by its usually solitary fruits. It is said to have a more coastal distribution than I. cassine.