Shrub or tree 2–8(–12) m. Bark smooth and greyish brown. Branchlets glabrous and greyish brown. Leaves papery to thin and leathery, 6–10 × 2.5–4 cm, oblong to elliptic or obovate, upper surface dark green, shiny and glabrous, lower surface pale green and glabrous, seven to nine secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins entire, apex shortly acuminate; petiole 1–1.5 cm long, glabrous. Flowers axillary and solitary, staminate or hermaphrodite; pedicel 1.5–2 cm long. Bracteoles 0.2 × 0.2 cm, sepals ovate to oblong, covered with golden dots, petals obovate, white to pale yellow, 0.5–0.7 cm long, stamens 25–45. Fruit purplish red, ovoid, 1–1.2 cm long. Flowering June to July, fruiting August to September (China). Ming & Bartholomew 2006. Distribution CHINA: Anhui, Fujian, northern Guangdong, northeast Guangxi, eastern Guizhou, Hunan, Jiangxi, southern Zhejiang. Habitat Montane forests, between 200 and 900 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 9. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Hudson 2004; NT846.
Ternstroemia nitida is very rare in cultivation, but shows promise of being an attractive evergreen for milder gardens: ‘a first rate foliage shrub’ according to Hudson (2004). Plants grown from seed obtained from the Qingpu Paradise Horticultural Company have grown slowly but steadily at Tregrehan, the growth rate increasing as they become larger, and have reached 1.8 m after about ten years (T. Hudson, pers. comm. 2008). The very handsome broad leaves flush bronze before becoming dark green, and the small flowers are strongly scented. At Tregrehan it grows in semi-shade, which is probably advisable to avoid the leaves being scorched in sunlight.