An evergreen shrub 10 to 15 ft high, or a small tree; young shoots downy. Leaves opposite, orbicular or ovate, entire, most usually 3⁄4 to 11⁄4 in. long, scarcely as wide (sometimes over 2 in. long), of rather leathery texture, purple and downy when young on both surfaces, changing to reddish brown, the blade conspicuously puckered and blistered between the veins; stalk 1⁄8 to 1⁄4 in. long, very downy. Flowers 3⁄4 in. wide, white, solitary in the leaf-axils, each on a downy stalk 1⁄2 to 5⁄8 in. long; calyx purple; petals round; stamens numerous, with white stalks and yellow anthers. Fruits a black-red, egg shaped berry 1⁄3 in. long. Bot. Mag., t. 4809.
Native of New Zealand; introduced originally to Kew, where it flowered as long ago as June 1854. It is scarcely hardy there, but succeeds well in the southwest, where it has reached nearly or quite 20 ft in height. Its chief feature is the curiously bullate or blistered appearance of the leaves, which makes it quite distinct from any other shrub that, so far as I know, can be grown in the open air in this country. So far as I have seen, it is shy-flowering.
The name M. bullata A. Cunn. is invalid, since it is antedated by M. bullata Salisb, used forty years earlier for a myrtaceous species of central America – Calyptranthes bullata (Salisb.) DC. No alternative name can be found and the established one is therefore retained here. In Flora of New Zealand, Vol. 1, pp. 329-330, the two New Zealand species are treated in the genus Lophomyrtus, separated from Myrtus by Burret in 1941. But the character by which he distinguished this genus is scarcely of generic value.
M. × ralphii Hook. f. Lophomyrtus ralphii (Hook. f.) Burret – Described by J. D. Hooker as a species near to M. bullata, this myrtle is now considered to be: a variable natural hybrid between that species and M. obcordata. Typically the leaves are flat or only slightly bullate, and intermediate between those of the parents in size.