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An evergreen shrub, 10 to 25 ft high, with warted bark, free from down. Leaves leathery, oval to obovate, 3 to 8 in. long, 11⁄2 to 4 in. wide, wedge-shaped at the base, rounded or with a short, blunt tip at the apex, entire or with a few obscure teeth towards the end, glossy green and glabrous above, paler beneath and glabrous except for tufts of down in the vein-axils; stalk 1⁄2 to 11⁄4 in. long. Flowers pure white, fragrant, all perfect, produced in stalked, broadly pyramidal panicles, 3 to 6 in. high, 21⁄2 to 5 in. wide at the base. Fruits red at first, ultimately black.
Native of northeastern India, southeast continental Asia, Japan, Formosa, the Philippines and the Celebes; introduced about 1818. This shrub grows well and makes a handsome bush in the southwestern counties, but is not very hardy near London – not so hardy even as V. japonicum, with which it was much confused. Its pyramidal inflorescence best distinguishes it from that species, but the venation of the leaf also is different in the veins splitting up and not running out to the margin, a character which enables it to be recognised when out of bloom.
The Japanese race of V. odoratissimum is sometimes separated as a distinct species – V. awabuki – though Rehder considered that it did not even merit varietal status. In V. odoratissimum sens. strict. the corolla-lobes are large, and longer than the tube; in the Japanese plants the corolla-tube is longer, and the lobes relatively shorter.