An evergreen shrub of bushy, rounded form at present 8 to 20 ft high in this country, and as much or more in diameter; young shoots glabrous, glaucous, often reddish. Leaves rhododendron-like, 3 to 8 in. long, 1 to 31⁄2 in. wide, oblong or narrowly oval, taper-pointed at the apex, wedge-shaped at the base, quite glabrous, dark green above, glaucous beneath; vein-pairs sixteen to nineteen; stalk 1 to 11⁄2 in. long, stout, often red like the midrib. Flowers small and inconspicuous, pale green, with a strong pungent odour; produced during late spring from the leaf-axils of the previous year’s growth in racemes 1 in. long; bracts and stamens pink. Fruit blue-black, pea-shaped.
Native of Japan; introduced by Maries for Messrs Veitch in 1879. A handsome and vigorous evergreen, becoming in Japan, and perhaps in this country, eventually a small tree. It is quite hardy, having withstood 30° of frost at Kew but nevertheless likes shelter. The red colouring of the leaf-stalks, midribs, and young wood adds to its beauty, but is not always present.
cv. ‘Variegatum’. – Leaves with a broad, irregular margin (sometimes reaching to the midrib) of creamy white; not so hardy as the type.