About 75 species of evergreen shrubs, or even small trees. Leaves opposite, 2-ranked or decussate (leaf pairs at right angle to the pair above and below), rounded to lanceolate, short petiole or sessile, often somewhat fleshy or scale-like and closely appressed (superficially resembling a dwarf conifer in appearance, these are known as whipcord hebes). Flowers in axillary or subterminal clusters, white to pink, mauve to lilac or blue, corolla short-tubular, limb expanded, 4-lobed; 2 stamens protruding beyond the corolla (exserted). Most Hebe species are native to New Zealand, some are from Australia, Chile and isolated sites in the South Pacific.
The classification of members of this genus is confused and confusing and Phillips and Barber (1981, p.154) have expressed this as follows: "Hebe was herself a goddess, but she was also a handmaid to the senior gods, whose goblets she was required to keep filled with nectar. She seems to have been a bit of a tippler herself, for the plants she has godmothered are a pretty mixed up lot. Their morals in their antipodean settlements are decidedly promiscuous and even the botanists of New Zealand, where most of them dwell, are puzzled about their lineages."
Hebe: from the Greek hebe, youth.
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