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An evergreen shrub or small tree to about 12 ft high, glabrous in all its parts. Leaves alternate, leathery, entire, narrow-oblong to ovate-oblong, 23⁄4 to 4 in. long, 4⁄5 to 13⁄5 in. wide, bluntly pointed at the apex, narrowly wedge-shaped at the base, glossy deep green above, paler beneath; leaf-stalks to 4⁄5 in. long. Flowers white to yellowish white, about 1⁄2 in. across, borne singly or up to three together in each leaf-axil on the previous year’s wood, or on short spurs; flower-stalks 2⁄5 to 3⁄5 in. long, with two small early deciduous bracteoles; sepals five, rounded, about 1⁄8 in. long; petals rather fleshy, narrow-oblong; stamens numerous, anthers bearded; style with two or three stigmas. Fruit a pea-sized berry, red ripening to black.
Native of Japan, Formosa, Korea, China, Burma, Assam and of the Himalaya as far west as Nepal. As might be expected from so wide a distribution, the species is very variable. The plants in cultivation seem to fall under one or other of two varieties, namely:
C. japonica var. kaempferiana (DC.) Sealy
C. ochnacea var. kaempferiana DC
C. ochnacea var. wallichiana DC