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Torchwood is a small slender tree or large shrub, typically 10 – 15 feet in height but can reach 22 feet under ideal conditions. It commonly has a dense rounded crown with low vertical branches. The bark is smooth and gray becoming rough with furrows and plates as the tree ages. But, leaves are opposite or subopposite, light glossy green composed of 3 – 5 leaflets. Consequently, leaflets are ovate to lanceolate with a long pointed tip and 1 – 3 inches long.
In addition, flowers are borne in erect branched clusters, blooms tiny, white, semi-showy and aromatic, attracting butterflies. Fruits are purplish-black berries about 1/4 inch in diameter, aromatic and edible, containing a single brown seed; seeds are used for propagation. Birds and mammals eat the fruits. Several plant parts are used as medicine. The green wood is highly resinous and by fraying the ends used to make a torch, hence the common name. Twigs are burned as incense.
Torchwood grows well in moist well-drained sandy or limestone soils with an organic top layer. It is an attractive small plant for coastal area gardens or parks, and can be shaped into a hedge as a buffer planting. It is also an attractive specimen for a native plant garden.