A woody member of the family Violaceae, Melicytus angustifolius has beautifully coloured berries. Partially white and partially grey, they have the appearance of the Chinese Yin and Yang symbol. To add to the illusion when picked a black eye is evident at the abscission point. Squeezing will produce a purple juice that stains the skin and release the singular black seed. This plant has grey stems on which the berries are closely held, the leaves also tightly held to the stem are mid green in colour and sparsely produced giving a depleted appearance at the shoot tips.
Heading from the Chilean area where M. angustifolia is planted, also from New Zealand is M. crassifolius growing at the south east corner of the Temperate Palm House. Much leafier than M. angustifolius, the leaves are a glossy dark green with a more rounded shape. It holds a generous crop of berries which are in the main white with a little grey coloration.
For those inspired by the genus, mention should be made of M. alpinus and its cultivar ‘Pygmaea’ both growing on the New Zealand bed in the Rock Garden. Neither carry berries and would not be attractive to anyone but the most devoted plantsman, both with a prickly topping of defoliated spines, of which ‘Pygmaea’ has the softer spines.