Euonymus tobira Thunb.
Pittosporum chinense Donn
Pittosporum makinoi Nakai
Common Name: Tobira
Pittosporum tobira is an evergreen shrub or small tree that can grow up to 6 metres tall[
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine. The plant is often grown as an ornamental. It is a particularly useful street tree for heavily polluted inner city areas[
This plant contains saponins[
Although poisonous, saponins also have a range of medicinal applications and many saponin-rich plants are used in herbalism (particularly as emetics, expectorants and febrifuges) or as sources of raw materials for the pharmaceutical industry. Saponins are also found in a number of common foods, such as many beans.
Saponins have a quite bitter flavour and are in general poorly absorbed by the human body, so most pass through without harm. They can be removed by carefully leaching in running water. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will also normally remove most of them. However, it is not advisable to eat large quantities of raw foods that contain saponins.
Saponins are much more toxic to many cold-blooded creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish and make them easy to catch[
E. Asia - southern China, southern Japan, southern Korea.
Rocky hillsides by the coast[
]. Forests, limestone areas, slopes, sandy seashores and roadsides; at elevations from sea level to 1,800 metres[
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
Pittosporum tobira is moderately cold-hardy, tolerating temperatures down to about -10°c[
], succeeding outdoors on the coast of S. England and in London[
Succeeds in most well-drained soils of reasonably good quality in full sun or light shade[
]. Succeeds in dry soils[
]. Very resistant to maritime exposure[
]. Established plants are drought resistant[
]. Plants are very tolerant of atmospheric pollution[
Plants can be up to 10 metres tall in their native habitat but rarely exceed 2 metres in Britain.
There are some named forms, selected for their ornamental value[
The flowers are very fragrant, with a scent reminiscent of orange blossom[
] and can pervade the air for a considerable distance[
Very amenable to pruning, plants can be cut right back into old wood if required[
Although flowers usually appear to be hermaphrodite, many species of Pittosporum are functionally dioecious, with individual specimens bearing mainly or totally flowers of one sex only. Even so, occasional functionally hermaphrodite flowers will appear and, in at least some species, these flowers can be self-compatible and produce fertile seed even in the absence of any other plants of that species[
The species in this genus are also very likely to hybridize with other members of the genus[
]. When growing a species from seed it is important to ensure that the seed either comes from a known wild source, or from isolated specimens in cultivation.
Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[
Very tolerant of pruning and maritime exposure, it can be grown as a wind resistant hedge. It can be used in shelterbelt plantings[
Seed - sow when ripe in the autumn or in late winter in a warm greenhouse[
]. The seed usually germinates freely. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle, move the plants to a cold frame as soon as they are established and plant out late in the following spring[
]. Consider giving them some protection from the cold during their first winter outdoors.
Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 7cm with a heel, mid summer in a frame. Poor to fair percentage[
Basal ripewood cuttings late autumn in a cold frame[