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An evergreen shrub of virgate habit, 3 to 6 ft high; young shoots slender, stiffly erect, downy. The leaves on the first year shoots are arranged oppositely, seven to fourteen pairs to the inch, and are downy, from 1⁄12 to 1⁄6 in. long, stalkless, consisting of three stout, sharply-pointed lobes, each lobe grooved beneath on either side of its prominent midrib. From the axils of these leaves, during the second year and afterwards, proceed short branches on which the short, simple, thick, blunt leaves are packed closely together decussately (i.e., in four superposed rows), the whole making a quadrangular arrangement of leaf and stem 1⁄4 in. wide. The second type of leaf is about 1⁄12 in. long. On the older wood the leaf-clusters form curiously contorted masses. Flowers white to rosy-lilac, sweetly and powerfully scented, produced in terminal spikes, often one spike on each of a cluster of short twigs near the apex of the shoot; a spike carries six to twelve flowers. Corolla 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 in. long, 1⁄4 in. wide, tubular, five-lobed, downy; calyx tubular, grooved, downy, with jagged margins; stamens four, attached to and hidden in the upper half of the corolla-tube, anthers yellow; bracts three-lobed, resembling the leaves, one flower in the axil of each.
Native of Chile and Argentina in the Patagonian steppe; described in 1816. It is a noxious weed of sheep pastures in the Patagonian region of southern Argentina and in places is sufficiently abundant to provide fuel. We owe the introduction of this extraordinary shrub to Clarence Elliott, who saw it in flower in February 1928 in the neighbourhood of Last Hope Bay – ‘a strange country of mountain, lake and moorland, eternal devastating wind, intense cold, and rain’ (C. Elliott, Gard. Chron., Vol. 89 (1931), p. 378). He later procured seeds and distributed plants from his famous Six Hills Nursery at Stevenage, where it first flowered in 1932. It is perfectly hardy, but needs a sunny position. The vanilla-like fragrance of the blossom is very strong and is perceptible several yards away from the plant.