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Tree 15 to 30 m, columnar at least when young, rounder in outline when mature, with spreading branches. Bark and branches not seen or recorded. Leaves 6–11 × 3.5–7 cm, elliptic to obovate, base cuneate to rounded, apex acute to rounded, subcoriaceous, flushing bronze, bright shiny green on upper surface, lower surface dull, sparsely hairy above when young, becoming ± glabrous, hairy below when young, glaucescent later; petiole 1–1.5 cm. Inflorescence of subterminal axillary panicles; peduncles red-hairy, 2–4 cm, not exceeding subtending leaf; flowers 5–6 mm long, yellowish green, pubescent. Fruits in clusters, 14–17 mm, ovoid to subglobose, subtended by persistent corolla lobes, green becoming black. Kopp 1966. Distribution CHILE. Habitat Several forest types, often with Nothofagus, between 0 and at least 850 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 8–9. Conservation status Lower Risk. Illustration NT554.
Lingue, as it is known in Chile, is an important timber tree, growing with other highly prized species in the moist forests of western Chile. H.J. Elwes reported (field note on specimen s.n. at Kew, 1902) that the wood was used for carriages and furniture, while the bark was used for tanning. Persea lingue grows in several different forest types, with many of the other Chilean trees described in this book and other species familiar in cultivation. It would seem, therefore, that it should do well in our area, in warmer gardens at least. Confirming this, a fine tree has grown in the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley for at least 50 years (S. Hogan, pers. comm. 2004), and propagations from this are being grown by Sean Hogan in Portland. Also, a collection made by Eric Hammond in 2000 (ECEH 00114) was formerly offered by Heronswood Nursery. The species has been introduced to the United Kingdom on several occasions, notably through collections made by Martin Gardner and Sabina Knees, but it has not become well established in British cultivation. It ought to flourish in suitable gardens on the west coast but seldom does, for reasons that are not clear. Martin Gardner (pers. comm. 2008) reports that the best specimen he has seen recently is a 5 m tree growing at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute, off the Scottish west coast, derived from seed collected by Lady Bute in the early 1990s. Another 5 m individual, grown from GK 4392, is outstanding in the Chilean borders at Nymans, West Sussex, and fruits regularly there (E. Ikin, pers. comm. 2008). Provenance is probably important, as the species occurs from sea-level to at least 850 m, and it requires very good drainage. Several collectors have noted that it flowers and fruits as an immature tree, and it is said to be poisonous to stock.
Kopp (1966) states that Persea meyeriana Nees was in cultivation at Berkeley in the early-twentieth century. This is another Chilean species, close to P. lingue but differing from it in being more bristly-hairy and in having a farinose waxy deposit on the leaves; the peduncles are also slightly longer. It grows further north and at higher altitudes than P. lingue, and is a species that collectors should look for.