Azara is a genus of plants native to the temperate and subtropical regions of South America. The Chilean name for these plants is Corcolén. The genus contains only ten species, four of which you can find growing here at the Washington Park Arboretum! All species of Azara are evergreen shrubs to small trees. Although some species of Azara are considered to be borderline hardy in our Pacific Northwest climate, we have had success growing them at the Arboretum. They are in the family Salicaceae, which suggests they a close relative of our northern hemisphere willow trees. Notice the unique way the leaves are arranged on the stem in each of these Azara species.
1) Azara dentata Aromo de Castilla
- This species is native to Chile and Argentina.
- Several sizable specimens can be found growing in the Gateway to Chile Garden at the south end of the Arboretum.
- This plant has the specific epithet dentata because the leaf edges are toothed or dentate, with blunt points facing out.
2) Azara integrifolia Corcolén
- You can find this plant, in all its sweet-scented yellow puffball glory, blooming directly off Arboretum Drive across from the New Zealand Forest. There are also several specimens planted near the patio in the Gateway to Chile Garden.
- Like Azara dentata, the specific epithet integrifolia tells us something about this plant’s leaf edges. ‘Integr-’ means entire or smooth, and ‘folia’ indicates leaves. Azara integrifolia has entire (smooth, neither toothed nor lobed) leaf margins.
3) Azara microphylla Chin-chin, Boxleaf Azara
- This is by far the hardiest and most common Azara found growing in the Pacific Northwest. It is beloved for its reliable evergreen foliage and delicious vanilla-scented flowers in late winter.
- This specific epithet microphylla describes this plant’s small leaves.
- There are several specimens growing throughout the Arboretum, and a particularly nice one can be found blooming in the Witt Winter Garden.
4) Azara lanceolata Aromo, Lanceleaf Azara
- Azara lanceolata has been deemed by some to be the most elegant and handsome of the Azara genus.
- It has large yellow flowers that open sometime around April. Flowers are followed by striking violet berries.
- Again, the specific epithet describes this plant’s leaf shape, which is lanceolate. Lanceolate means long and wider in the middle, shaped like the tip of a lance.
- You can find this plant growing on the east side of Arboretum Drive near the Camellia Collection.