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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Azara microphylla, Box-leaved azara, Salicaceae

For most of the year Azara microphylla isn't a very impressive plant - just a rather straggly shrub with masses of small, glossy leaves - but for a couple of weeks in spring it reveals a rather delicious attribute: a powerful aroma of chocolate. It produces clusters of small golden stamens from the beginning of March onwards and when I opened our back door this morning (which is the day of the vernal equinox - the first day of spring) I was greeted by the chocolate scent that the Azara that's trained against the wall was releasing in the early morning sun.

The precise perception of scent is a personal attribute and I know some people who find that, to them, it smells of chocolate. Scents are often closely interwoven with memory and to me the aroma is reminiscent of the smell of a brand of chocolate called Caramac that I was very partial to in my youth.

If you are a chocoholic gardener you can find information on cultivating Azara, which can become a small tree, here and you can find more photographs here. Sadly the web is useless for conveying scents but if you can locate a bar of Caramac you'll see what I mean about the aroma .....

It is a native of Chile.