Sweet pittosporum, native daphne, Australian cheesewood, Victorian box, mock orange (Eng); azarero, incienso, laurel australiano (Spa); pitòspor (Cat); incenseiro, falsa-árvore-do-incenso (Por).
DID YOU KNOW...? The sweet pittosporum takes great advantage of its attractive fruits and seeds. Birds eat the fruit and help the tree disperse them.
The sweet pittosporum is generally a hairless tree, except for a light pubescence on the new twigs and flower stalks. It grows 6-8 m tall, but can exceptionally reach 15 m. It has a dark greyish bark covered in scales that on young branches become deep green with scattered white spots. It may sometimes be confused with the laurel Laurus novocanariensis, but it can be easily differentiated by the entire margin of the leaves and their wavy blades, as well as the resinous scent that they give off when rubbed. The leaves are simple, persistent, somewhat leathery and shiny. They are alternate and sometimes grouped in a spiral at the ends of the branches. The blade is ovate-lanceolate or elliptical and up to 15 cm long. The flowers are borne in compact clusters and give off an intense fragrance similar to orange blossom. They have 5 yellowish-white petals. These are quite thick and partially joined towards the base, forming a tube where nectar accumulates. The fruits are globose, orange capsules. When ripe the two leathery sides, or valves, open exposing very striking seeds covered in a reddish or blackish seed coat (aril). These are very sticky as they are immersed in a viscous-resinous substance that favours their dispersal.
In its natural environment in Australia, the sweet pittosporum grows both along the coastal strip and in the mountains. It prefers humid areas and stream zones and can grow as high as 1200 m above sea level. This tree is undemanding with regard to nutrients, withstands cold and a lack of water, and tolerates exposure to maritime environments. It has been cultivated fairly frequently in gardens in the Canary Islands. It mainly grows in the midslope zones, or medianías (between altitudes of 600 and 1500 m), where it may be seen along many roadsides. It fairly frequently forms copses within the monteverde forest zone, and is found less often in the humid pine forest. Thanks to its sticky seeds, some specimens of this species have been found growing on the Canary Island date palm (Phoenix canariensis) as epiphytes (plants that grow on another that serves only as a support).
This species originated in Australia and has been widely cultivated in other parts of the world. During the 19th century it was introduced into the Canary Islands because of its value as an ornamental. Currently, it has become established in the wild on the islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria.