91211Of all the popular pittosporums in Western landscapes nowadays, the karo, Pittosporum crassifolium, is certainly not one of the most familiar. It might have been one of the earliest to have been popularized here though. Because of its resiliency to coastal climates, it was a common hedge in San Francisco during the Victorian Period. With minimal watering, it did well farther inland too.

Karo are nice fluffy evergreen shrubs that can get fifteen feet tall. They excel both as informal screens and refined hedges, and can be staked as small trees on single straight trunks. Alternatively, lower growth of big shrubby specimens can be pruned up to expose a few delightfully sculptural trunks. ‘Compactum’ is a densely foliated mounding cultivar that might stay less than three feet tall.

The Latin name, Pittosporum crassifolium, is quite descriptive. The literal translation is “sticky-seed thick-leaf”. The two or three inch long leaves are not really thick, but their slightly grayish upper surfaces and more grayish tomentous (fuzzy) undersides make them seem almost succulent. Small and round seed pods eventually split open to reveal dark seed glued together with sticky resin.

4 thoughts on “Karo

    1. They are supposedly fragrant, but I have never experienced any remarkable fragrance. It is appealing, but quite subdued. Pittosporum tobira is a similar but much more common species nowadays. It seems to be just as fragrant, and can be delightfully fragrant if there is enough of it.

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    1. It used to be more common than it is now. Other pittosporums are more popular, particularly Pittosporum tobira, which look similar, but with darker and glossier foliage. There is more of it in San Francisco, where it either survived in old landscapes, or was added to younger landscapes because people are familiar with it. It is rare in San Jose because most landscapes were developed when it was uncommon. That seems to be a common theme with this species. It tends to inhabit old gardens, or neighborhoods where there are old gardens.

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