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What Is Osmanthus Heterophyllus?

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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2016
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Osmanthus heterophyllus, also known as false olive or holly olive, is a shrubbery native to Taiwan and Japan. These bushes can reach heights of up to 8 feet (2.5 meters) and may be as wide as 10 feet (3 meters) in diameter. Osmanthus heterophyllus usually has shiny, stiff, deep green leaves that can be about 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters) long. They normally produce aromatic, white flowers in the autumn, and their berries are typically dark blue and ovular. They generally like some amount of sunlight, and rich, damp soil.

These plants are popular among gardeners as hedging vegetation. They are considered very hardy shrubs, generally able to tolerate high temperatures and dry conditions if necessary. They do, however, seem to grow best when regularly watered. The Osmanthus heterophyllus is an evergreen shrub, and it typically grows rather slowly. They generally prefer soil with some amount of acid content.

The blooms of these shrubs are quite aromatic and pleasant. They are usually white, though orange or yellow blooms on the Osmanthus heterophyllus have not been unheard of. The flowers are generally quite small, with four petals each, and usually grow in clusters from the branch near the leaf base. These plants typically bloom in the autumn, but the dark blue, ovular fruit does not normally appear until months later, in the late spring or summer.

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The leaves of this plant are usually stiff and glossy, dark in color, with spines. They generally resemble the leaves of the holly bush, hence the shrub's common names, holly olive, false holly, and sometimes Chinese holly. Some varieties, particularly the Taiwanese variety, have more rounded, ovular leaves that are somewhat sharp at the tips.

It is believed that pruning these plants in late spring, and again after they have finished blossoming, is best. Most gardeners believe that Osmanthus heterophyllus can tolerate quite a lot of pruning at one time. These plants usually produce particularly dense branches and foliage, and are usually somewhat round in shape. This makes them both easy to trim into ovular or round shapes, and generally ideal for attractive privacy hedges. Some gardeners plant these shrubs alongside other shrubs in a hedgerow, since their aromatic flowers and attractive blue fruit can enhance the aesthetics of the feature.

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