Azra microphylla has flowers that smell like white chocolate!
This small evergreen tree comes from South America. It has broad leaves and is sensitive to cold. It is a large shrub or small tree of upright growth and notably fine-textured dainty foliage. In Seattle, England, and Ireland specimens have been measured 40 feet tall or more. Its elfin leaves measure only a quarter inch to an inch long; they are dark green and shiny. Minute, almost unseen flowers are yellowish-green, intensely vanilla- or chocolate-scented in late winter or early spring –anytime from December into April. For their fragrance alone this is a superb tree to grow. The fruit is a tiny one-seeded berry a quarter inch long, first reddish-orange, ripening in June or July to the color of chocolate milk, yet shiny and speckled; slightly bitter vanilla-flavored.
Its cultivar ‘Variegata’ has leaves variegated with creamy white so it lights up dark garden corners wonderfully. It was introduced to cultivation around 1916; possibly it was raised by Slieve Donard nursery of Ireland. Once very rare, it has been cultivated in the United States since at least 1966. The tallest I know is 25 feet, planted in Seattle in the 1990s.
Azara microphylla (chinchin) is an early spring flowering evergreen shrub or small tree native to southern South America (Chile and Argentina).
Its golden flowers are small, abundant and smell strongly of vanilla or chocolate. Azaras tiny, tiny leaves, are arranged in opposite “leaf” pairs are composed of larger true leaves and smaller, leaf-like stipules – a genuine botanical oddity.
Image courtesy of ubc botanical garden.org