An evergreen spreading shrub 6 to 10 ft high, considerably higher in the mildest counties. Leaves opposite and alternate on the same plant, ovate, usually from 2 to 5 in. long, shallowly toothed; dark lustrous green, almost glabrous except when young. Flowers in small, few-flowered cymes coming from the leaf-axils, or from the ends of short twigs; small (not more than 1⁄4 in. across), greenish white. Male and female flowers appear on different plants. The fruit is about the size of a pea, at first purplish then black.
Native of Chile and Argentina, said to have been introduced in 1773 and certainly well known in gardens early in the nineteenth century. This shrub is best fitted for the warmer parts of the British Isles, where it forms a luxuriant but somewhat commonplace evergreen, and where the female plant bears fruit freely. At Kew it is cut back to the ground in all but the mildest winters, but sends up during the summer a crowd of thick, succulent, big-leaved shoots 3 or 4 ft high. In these circumstances it does not flower and has little interest, but on a wall it often flowers. The Chileans make a wine from the fruit, said to have medicinal properties. It is a common, weedy shrub of cleared forest and waste places.
cv. 'Variegata'. – A form whose leaves are variegated with yellow; it is handsome where it thrives, but is more tender than the type.