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An evergreen shrub or small tree varying from 6 to 30 ft high in the wild state; young shoots grooved and, like the stalks and under-surface of the leaves and the flower-stalks, clothed with a close, dense, white felt. Leaves entire, orbicular, heart-shaped, or roundish ovate, blunt or rounded at the apex, the largest 5 in. long by nearly as much wide, the smaller ones 2 to 3 in. long, glabrous and dark shining green above; stalks 1 to 31⁄2 in. long, stout, grooved. Flower-heads in large terminal clusters of corymbs from 5 to 10 in. wide, each flower-head 1⁄2 in. long, 1⁄3 in. wide, white at the sides, yellowish at the top without any ray-florets. The florets are erect and closely packed in a faggot-like cluster. Flowers in June and July; rather unpleasantly scented.
Native of the South Island, New Zealand, where it extends from sea level, often close to the sea, up to 3,500 ft altitude. Although it has little beauty of blossom, it is a striking plant because of the size and roundness of its shining leathery leaves. In September 1928 there was a plant 3 ft high and 4 ft in diameter, growing in an exposed position on the rock garden at Edinburgh. In Mr Cox’s garden at Glendoick, in the valley of the Tay, Perthshire, a plant was 5 ft high in June 1931. On all but our coldest shores it ought to be a good seaside shrub. Kirk, in his Forest Flora of New Zealand, observes that its power of withstanding the fiercest gales and dashing sea spray is marvellous, and that he had never seen a leaf torn by the action of either. (See also S. elaeagnifolius.)
S. elaeagnifolius Hook. f. Brachyglottis elaeagnifolia (Hook. f.) B. Nord. – An evergreen shrub 4 to 10 ft high in the wild state; young shoots slightly channelled, clothed like the under-surface of the leaves and the flower-stalks with a pale, buff-coloured felt. Leaves, mostly oval or obovate, tapered at the base, blunt or rounded at the end, 2 to 5 in. long, 1 to 31⁄2 in. wide, glabrous and glossy above; stalk grooved, 1⁄2 to 13⁄4 in. long. Inflorescence a terminal, pyramidal panicle 3 to 6 in. high. Flower-heads 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 in. wide, with nine to twelve very woolly scales surrounding the base of each of them.
Native of the North Island of New Zealand, where it ascends to 4,500 ft; very abundant in some places. It is similar to S. reinoldii, especially in having no ray-florets, but the leaves of that species are relatively broader in outline and the inflorescence is shorter, often much broader and more rounded. Neither has really any beauty of flower. S. elaeagnifolius is much the less common of the two in cultivation in the British Isles, and some of the records of this species refer to misidentified narrow-leaved variants of S. reinoldii.
Synonyms / alternative names
buchananii Hort., not (Armstr.) Kirk