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Myrsine africana L.

Modern name

Myrsine africana L.


M. retusa Ait.; M. africana var. retusa (Ait.) A. DC.

An evergreen shrub, usually from 2 to 5 ft high, bushy, and very leafy; young shoots angled, covered with short down. Leaves alternate, about 18 in. apart on the twigs, oval to narrowly obovate, rounded, truncate, or tapering at the apex, always tapered at the base, 14 to 34 in. long, 316 to 12 in. wide, toothed at the terminal half only, glabrous on both surfaces, lustrous dark green above; stalk downy, 116 in. long. Flowers of one sex only on a plant, very tiny, pale brown, produced in stalkless clusters of three to six at the leaf-axils. Berries on the female plant pale blue, orange-shaped, 14 in. or less across, with the persistent calyx at the base, containing a single seed. Bot. Mag., t. 8712.

Native of the Himalaya, China, Azores, and the mountains of eastern and southern Africa. It was introduced from South Africa in the 17th century and again from the Azores in 1778. The plants now in cultivation are mostly of Himalayan or Chinese origin, but Collingwood Ingram has in his garden at Benenden, Kent, a plant introduced by him from the Azores.

This curious little shrub, which is of neat habit and has a general resemblance to Ilex crenata, is spread widely over the Old World. It has no flower beauty. Having such a wide range, this species must vary in hardiness, but a plant raised from seed in 1895 grew on the rock garden at Kew unprotected until killed in the winter of 1946-7. This was only 1 ft high. At Nymans in Sussex there is a male plant about 4 ft high and 10 ft across, which is over half-a-century old. The Benenden plant referred to above is also hardy.

The fruiting spray figured in the Botanical Magazine came from a female plant at Nymans, which was weaker growing than the male and died some years ago. Fruits have been borne in other gardens also.



Other species in the genus