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An evergreen shrub of rounded, dense, bushy habit, 10 ft or more high near London, twice as high in milder localities; young shoots minutely downy. Leaves oval, 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 in. long, 1 to 11⁄2 in. wide, with two to four large spine-tipped teeth down each side, the largest teeth 1⁄2 in. long, triangular. In the adult stage the leaves on the top of the plant become oval or ovate, and quite entire at the margins, like a myrtle. The upper surface is of a dark, very glossy green, the lower one paler, both quite glabrous; stalk 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long. Flowers white, fragrant, 1⁄4 in. across but with reflexed petals, borne during September and October, four or five together on short stalks, in axillary clusters. Fruits oblong, 5⁄8 in. long, 3⁄8 in. wide, blue, not often seen in this country.
Native of Japan, where it is described by Sargent as attaining the dimensions of a tree sometimes 30 ft high, with a trunk 1 ft or more in diameter; also of Formosa. It was introduced by Thomas Lobb in 1856. In foliage it is one of the handsomest of evergreens. Its leaves are very like those of the holly, and the shrub is often mistaken for one, but it can, of course, even without flower or fruit, be at once distinguished by its opposite leaves. It has been used with success as a hedge plant. It has a number of varieties, of which the following are the most important:
In this variety, which was raised at Kew in 1880, the young leaves are of a black-purple shade; they and the very young shoots, in their black glossiness, have much the aspect of having been dipped in tar. It is the hardiest of all the forms of this osmanthus. The frosts of February 1895 left it quite unaffected, whilst all the others here mentioned were more or less seriously injured at Kew.
Leaves margined with creamy white.