Native to West Africa, this shrub has long been praised for its beauty. Its handsome glossy leaves and fragrant flowers make it a popular houseplant in temperate regions, and it’s considered sacred in some of the villages where it grows wild. We’ve secured its seeds in the MSB from Burkina Faso, where it’s considered one of the country’s rarest plant species.
The glossy-leaved gardenia has handsome glossy leaves and strongly scented white flowers that turn golden yellow as they age. Along with many other gardenia species, it’s elegance and fragrance make it a popular decorative houseplant and glasshouse species across the world’s temperate zones.
The plant certainly impressed William Hooker, Kew’s first official director, who first published its Latin name in 1847. In his original description, he calls it 'deliciously scented’ and ‘of the purest white’.
In 2007, 160 years on, the MSB team in Burkina Faso banked the seeds of this beauty, braving 35-degree heat, lions and panthers to do so.
Not only decorative, in some West African villages the tree is thought to have sacred and protective properties. In Ghana its wood is sometimes placed on roofs to ward off lightning strikes. And in the traditional medicine of the Krobo people, the roots are ground up with a boiled egg and given to women as an aid to conception.