Scientific name: Azara dentata
Plant type: Evergreen shrub
Environment: Part to full shade in well-drained soil
Uses: Screening plant against a fence or wall
Azare dentata can be found:
Andean Cloud Forest – 55A, 55B, 57G
Azara dentata Ruiz & Pav. is a large, evergreen shrub endemic to central and southern Chile. A member of the Salicaceae family, the genus Azara is a relative of Salix, or willows, which are native to North America. Azara is a relatively small genus of only 11 species, all of which are native to South America.
Azara dentata was first formally described in 1798 in a flora covering plants of Chile and Peru by Hipólito Ruiz López and José Antonio Pavón. Ruiz and Pavón traveled extensively in Chile and Peru for 10 years collecting and documenting thousands of species. It took some time following this description for A. dentata to make its way into gardens and the species was introduced to horticulture around 1830.
In its native range, Azara dentata is found from the coast to the foothills of the Andes. Ecologically, A. dentata is an important member of these communities. A study from 2011 conducted in central Chile found that two local bird species feed on the fruit of A. dentata. The shrub, however, is also reliant on the birds. The study found that when the seeds of A. dentata were eaten and then excreted by birds, there was a much better chance that the seeds would germinate. In the study, A. dentata seeds that had fruit remaining on them did not germinate at all, making the consumption by the birds important for the distribution of A. dentata in its native range.
In areas where Azara species are abundant, the honey produced locally has been studied in the past and found to compounds which have antioxidant and antibacterial activity. As such, researchers recently looked to study the phytochemicals of A. dentata specifically and the possible medical applications it could have. The study found compounds in the leaves that have broad applications such as antibacterial and anti-cancer activities and suggested the species as a candidate for further pharmacological studies.
Azara dentata is a large, evergreen shrub with a profusion of yellow blooms. The clusters of yellow flowers have a distinct vanilla scent that are a favorite of bees and butterflies. After flowering the shrub will produce small red to black berries. Azara dentata is quite long-lived with specimen found living anywhere from 40 to 150 years.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS: Text by Victoria Stewart. Photos by Saxon Holt, Brendan Lange, and Victoria Stewart.