About 7 species of deciduous shrub; branches hollow or with solid pith. Leaves in opposite pairs, simple. Inflorescence a spike or a series of sessile whorls of 6 flowers, terminal or axillary, often with showy involucral bracts. Sepals 5. Corolla 5-lobed, white, pink, purplish red, orange, yellow or greenish, funnel-shaped, regular; tube gibbous at the base. Stamens 5; style long and slender. Fruit a berry with 5–8 cells, green, red or violet-blue, the calyx persistent; seeds numerous and minute. (Flora of China 2021).
This small group of Sino-Himalayan shrubs was named by Wallich after his friend William Leycester, Chief Justice in Bengal in the early nineteenth century, who, ‘during a long series of years pursued every branch of horticulture with munificence, zeal and success’ (Bean 1981). Leycesteria formosa Wall., the first species described, produces showy white flowers hanging from maroon bracts and has long been cultivated in the milder, wetter parts of Europe, America and Australasia, where it is inclined to naturalise. The yellow-flowered and very different looking L. croceothyrsos Airy Shaw is less hardy and has been cultivated sporadically in the west since 1928; these species were hybridised in England in 1994 to produce L. ‘Smouldering Embers’. L. gracilis (Kurz) Airy Shaw, with small white flowers but showy purple berries which ripen through winter, has very recently been introduced to France by Cédric Basset and Manon Rivière.
Of the species which have probably never been introduced to cultivation in the west, Leycesteria dibanvalliensis was described by S.K. Das and G.S. Giri in 1991 (Das & Giri 1992) from the Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh at 1500 m, where it is very rare (Acharya & Mukherjee 2017). L. glaucophylla (Hook. f. & Thoms.) Clarke, also rather scarce, has greenish-white to yellow flowers with green bracts and yellow-green fruit late in autumn. L. insignis Merr. is a tenderer species endemic to northern Myanmar, while L. stipulata (Hook. f. & Thoms.) Fritsch is a more widespread plant with small white flowers, green bracts and woolly fruit (Acharya & Mukherjee 2017).
|1a||Flowers in pairs, white||L. gracilis|
|1b||Flowers in whorls of 6:||2|
|2a||Flowers white, with reddish bracts:||L. formosa|
|2b||Flowers yellow:||L. crocothyrsos|