Everistia is a monotypic genus comprising two species formerly classified under the genus Canthium. Canthium vacciniifolium is now Everistia vacciniifolia var. vacciniifolia while Canthium microphyllum is now Everistia vacciniifolia var. nervosa.
Everistia vacciniifolia is a large shrub or small tree to about 8 metres tall with intricate, often tangled branches. The branchlets are distinctly zigzagged and the intricate branching makes them feel almost spiny to the touch. The leaves are elliptical to oval in shape and up to 15 mm long. Pale yellow or cream flowers with a reportedly unpleasant musty odour are borne in late summer to late autumn followed by small black fruits.
Small-leaved canthium is an excellent ornamental plant. It is very hardy although slow growing and is resistant to extended dry conditions. It also makes an excellent container plant and is useful for for indoor use, especially when it puts on a growth flush of miniature green new leaves, which distinctly contrasts with the darker green of the older leaves.
Propagation can be carried out by both seed and cuttings. Seeds should be separated from the fruit pulp prior to sowing and it is reported that seeds germinate best after soaking in water for 24 hours, discarding any seeds that float. Seeds are reported to have a short period of viability so should be sown from fresh fruit. Cuttings of hardened current season’s growth should be used but the strike rate may be well under 100%.
Photo: Tony Rodd