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A very leafy evergreen shrub of sturdy, bushy, much-branched habit, up to 8 ft high in the wild; young shoots mostly glabrous, but with scattered bristles sometimes. Leaves thick, opposite, stalkless, ovate-oblong to ovate, heart-shaped to somewhat truncate at the base, toothed, the base often overlapping the stem, 1 to 2 in. long, 3⁄4 to 11⁄2 in. wide, dark glossy green and glabrous above, pale, strongly net-veined and occasionally with scattered bristles beneath. Flowers borne very numerously in terminal panicles as much as 4 in. wide and long; flower-stalks glabrous. Corolla bell-shaped, white, about 1⁄6 in. long; calyx-lobes narrow triangular, glabrous, dry, and never apparently becoming fleshy and enlarged, as is usual in this genus.
Native of New Zealand in the mountains of the North Island up to 3,000 ft. It flowers with us in May and June. The species is very distinct among cultivated gaultherias in its opposite leaves, though at the upper part of the branches towards the flower-panicle there are sometimes three in a whorl. It is the most ornamental of the gaultherias in New Zealand in regard to its flowers and comparable in this respect with the better Chinese and Himalayan species. Although generally considered to be tender, it has grown in the Heath Garden at Wakehurst Place, Sussex, for over forty years.
G. fagifolia Hook. f. is near the above, having its white flowers in racemes up to 2 in. long. The leaves, however, are alternate and usually 1⁄2 to 1 in. long. The calyx-lobes do not enlarge nor become succulent. New Zealand. It is a hybrid between G. oppositifolia and G. antipoda. Hooker described this gaultheria from specimens collected by Colenso at Motukino, near Lake Taupa. In other forms of the cross, fruits with the succulent calyces of G. antipoda and the dry ones of G. oppositifolia are found on the same plant.