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Woody > Osmanthus > Osmanthus heterophyllus > Osmanthus heterophyllus

Osmanthus heterophyllus

False Holly, Holly Tea Olive

Origin:  Taiwan and Southern Japan.
            Mike's Opinion

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This Japanese native is the hardiest of the Osmanthus genus, named heterophyllus for its unusual habit. Producing immensely fragrant flowers making it an excellent choice to plant near an entrance or path. The dense, broadleaf foliage that is retained year round makes it an ideal hedge plant with its spines being an excellent deterrent to unwanted foot traffic.

Michael Pascoe, NDP., ODH., CLT., MSc. (Plant Conservation)


Shrub (evergreen)
USDA Hardiness Zone
6 - 9
Canadian Hardiness Zone
RHS Hardiness Zone
H7 - H4
Temperature (°C)
(-21) - (-1)
Temperature (°F)
(-5) - 30
2-6 m
2-5 m
Description and Growing Information
Flowering Period
General Description
A broadleaf evergreen shrub with a rounded oval form, spiny leaves similar to Ilex aquifolium.
Excellent as a hedge or screen. Its sharply spined foliage makes it an excellent barrier.
Acidic, well drained soils in full sun to partial shade. Urban tolerant.
Oval to round dense shrub.
ID Characteristic
Strongly spined broadleaf foliage on younger shrubs with fragrant white flowers in mid-autumn.
No serious pests, however, poor-draining soils can cause fungal diseases such as Phytophthera. Drought stress can make the plant vulnerable to infection with Botryosphaeria canker.
Acidic soils of the evergreen forests of Japan and Taiwan in the mountains at elevations from 600-3,000 m above sea level.
Bark/Stem Description
The bark is glabrous with noticeable lenticels, and ranges from light grey to light brown in colour.
Flower/Leaf Bud Description
Buds are glabrous, dark purple to brown in colour, and 1.5-3 mm in length. They are held on the stem in groups of 2 or 3, stacked one atop the other.
Leaf Description
Alternating simple evergreen leaves. Younger growth appears similar to Ilex with a spinose margin that has 1-4 pairs of sharp spines, becoming ovate and entire as it ages. Its leaves range in shape from ovate to elliptic-oblong. Ranging in size from 25-60 mm in length and 25-40 mm in width, attached to the stem by a petiole up to 13 mm in length. The leaves are lustrous and dark green on top, with a more yellow-green veined underside.
Flower Description
The flowers are borne in cymes of 4-5. Each individual flower has 4 white petals, approximately 5 mm in diameter. They are intensely fragrant with an apricot-like scent.
Fruit Description
Fruit is a drupe, ovoid in shape, 12-15 mm in length and up to 10 mm in diameter.
Colour Description
Leaves are dark green above and yellow-green underneath. The flowers are white, producing drupes which are dark purple to black. The stem is light brown to light grey.
Texture Description
Notable Specimens
University of British Columbia Botanical Garden, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Nakai Botanical Garden, Osaka, Japan.
Typically propagated by cuttings, however, can be propagated by seed. Stratify seeds for 3 months in moist warm conditions, then an additional 3 months of cold stratification before sowing. Seeds may take up to 18 months to germinate. Transfer seedlings to individual pots for overwintering, then transplant to their final position in early summer. To grow clonally, softwood cuttings should be taken mid-summer, or semi-hardwood cuttings taken in early autumn. Treat the cuttings with 0.8% IPA talc and allow 12 weeks for rooting to establish. Grow for 18 months in a greenhouse before transplanting outside in late spring or autumn.
Huxley, Anthony Julian, Mark Griffiths, and Margot Levy. "The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening". London: Macmillan, 1999. Print. Huang, Tseng-Chieng. "Flora of Taiwan. 2nd ed. Vol. 4". Taipei, Taiwan: "Editorial Committee of the Flora of Taiwan, Second Edition, 1994. Print.