Osmanthus fragrans
Common name: 
Fragrant Tea Olive,
Fragrant Olive,
Sweet Osmanthus
oz-MAN-thus FRAY-granz
Native to (or naturalized in) Oregon: 
  • Broadleaf evergreen shrub or small tree, 20-40 ft (6-12 m) high, upright oval to columnar habit, often grown with several main trunks.  Leaves opposite or subopposite, simple, oblong-lanceolate to elliptic, 6-10 cm long, tip acuminate, base wedge-shaped (cuneate), margin entire or finely toothed, leathery tough, glossy dark green above, lighter and distinctly veined below; petiole 6-12 mm long.  Flowers usually white, waxy, small, 1 cm, the 4-lobed corolla is divided more or less to the base, solitary or few in stalked clusters, very fragrant (apricot-scented).  Fruits bluish, 12 mm long.
  • Sun to part shade, best in acidic, well-drained soil.  Drought tolerant when established but needs some watering for best performance.  Can be grown as a hedge or in a pot.  ..."a traditional element in southern gardens" (Floridata).
  • Hardy to USDA Zone (7)8       Native to China, Japan and Himalayas.  Sweet Osmanthus is the city flower of Guilin, China, and Guilin actually means Forest of Sweet Osmanthus trees.
  • The very fragrant flowers are used as an additive for tea and other beverages in the far east.  In addition, in China the flowers are also used to produce osmanthus-scented jam, sweet cakes, dumplings and soups.  An extract (alcohol absolute) of gold-orange flowers (O. fragrans var. thunbergii) is very expensive (~U.S. $4000 per kilogram) and accordingly is used in only the most expensive perfumes and flavors (Leffingwell & Associates).
  • A number of cultivars, formas, varieties, etc. (Dirr, 1998), some are difficult to find in commerce:
    • ‘Apricot Gold’  -  flowers apricot-cold colored, fragrant.
    •  f. aurantiacus  (syn. O. aurantiacus) -  pale orange flowers bloom in fall, leaves usually entire.
    • ‘Butter Yellow’  -  fragrant yellow flowers.
    • ‘Conger Yellow’  -  fragrant yellow flowers.
    • ‘Fudingzhu’  (syn. ‘Nanjin's Beauty’)  -  abundant, very fragrant, cream-white flowers, reportedly blooms for nine months.
    • ‘Hunter's Creek’  -  large, 20 ft (6 m) shrub with white flowers.
    •  var. latifolia  -  fragrant cream-yellow flowers, summer blooming for several months.
    • ‘Live Oak Gold’  -  gold-yellow flowers.
    • ‘Orange Supreme’  -  fragrant bright orange flowers.
    •  var. semperflorens  -  reportedly the hardiest (Zone 7), flowers over a long period.
    • var. thunbergii  -  fragrant yellow flowers.
    • ‘T-Tower’  -  small tree with white flowers
  • fragrans: fragrant, a reference to the flowers
  • Portland, Oregon: Portland Classical Chinese Garden


Click image to enlarge
  • plant habit

    plant habit

  • new growth

    new growth

  • foliage


  • leafy shoot

    leafy shoot

  • leaves


  • trunk, bark

    trunk, bark