A lovely, evergreen, large shrub or small to medium sized tree, Pittosporum viridiflorum, the Cheesewood will enhance most gardens.

An evergreen, large shrub or small to medium tree with a dense crown. Pittosporum viridiflorum is a versatile garden subject, from screening to shade tree or container subject. It is cold and drought hardy. Like many indigenous plants, it will attract wildlife to your garden.  

Family:                       PITTOSPORACEAE        (Pittosporum family).


Name Derivation:

  • Pittosporum  – from Greek ‘pitta’ pitch or resin and ‘spora’ seed, referring to the seeds that is embedded in a sticky, resinous pulp.
  • viridiflorum – Latin meaning green flowers..

Common Names:          Cheesewood (Eng), kasuur, bosboekenhout (Afr), kgalagangwe (Nso), phukhu (Sso), umvusamvu (Swa), mpatakhamelo (Tso), mulondwane (Ven), umkhwenkwe (Xho) and umfusamvu (Zul).

FSA Number:                   139                  Zim Number:                  143


  • An evergreen large shrub or small to medium tree with a dense crown.

Size:                                   3 – 8 m (–12 m) by 3 – 5 m.


  • Small, sweetly fragrant, creamy-yellow to yellow-green flowers in terminal clusters.

Colour:                                Creamy-yellow to yellow-green.

Flowering Months:          Aug – Dec.


  • Flowers are sweetly scented.
  • Crushed leaves smell of resin.
  • Bark smells of carrot or liquorice.


  • Evergreen.
  • Simple leaves, mostly obovate to broadly oblanceolate, spiraled at ends of branchlets.
  • The leaves are prone to attack by psyllids, and are often deformed.
  • Leaves are shiny dark (blue) green above, paler below with translucent veins below.
The small, creamy-white flowers of Pittosporum viridiflorum are sweetly fragrant and borne in dense terminal clusters.
The simple, shiny, dark green or blue-green leaves of Pittosporum viridiflorum are clustered in spirals at the ends of branches.
Pittosporum viridiflorum fruit are rounded, yellow to brown capsules and very showy when in full fruit.
Thorns:                          No thorns.


  • Fruit are yellow-brown round capsules, 5 – 10 mm.
  • Fruit split open to reveal 4 seeds covered in a sticky, bright orange-red flesh.


  • Bark grey and smooth, lenticels on young stems.
  • Horizontal ‘pits’ and rougher on mature stems
  • Bark smells of carrot or liquorice and tastes bitter.
In the Garden:

  • With its dense crown, attractive foliage and fruit, Pittosporum viridiflorum makes a good garden shrub or tree.
  • In large gardens or open spaces it can be planted as an informal hedge or used as a screen.
  • They can be pruned up to form an attractive small shade or feature tree.
  • A good plant for a wildlife friendly garden, attracting birds to the fruit.
  • Makes a very good container plant in a sunny or semi-shaded position on a patio or courtyard.
  • May be planted close to paving, walls or even pools and ponds.
  • Can be used in fairly narrow spaces and pruned to stay within the allotted space.
  • Water-wise.
  • Medium fast grower, between 40 and 70 cm in a year.
Pittosporum viridiflorum is an attractive and shapely tree.
The seeds of Pittosporum viridiflorum are covered with a very sticky red flesh.
Soil Needs:                         A well drained soil.


  • A low maintenance plant.
  • Feed with organic fertilizer and mulch with compost.
  • Protect young plants against cold.
  • Leaves are prone to attack by psyllids, causing bumps on the leaves. Although unsightly, these do not hurt the tree. You can spray regularly with a mild organic insecticide like Vegol or Neudosan.
Red-eyed Doves and African Olive-pigeons relish the seeds of Pittosporum viridiflorum.
Cold Hardiness:    Cold hardy, but a little frost sensitive when young.

Water Requirements:

  • Drought hardy, but thrives on regular summer water.
  • Water-wise.

Light Requirements:       Full sun or partial shade.

Roots:             The roots are not aggressive.


  • Insectivorous birds are attracted to the insects that come to the flowers and leaves.
  • The seeds are sought after by many birds, including African Olive Pigeons, doves, barbets and starlings.
  • Francolins and guineafowls eat fruit that has fallen to the ground.
Insects and Butterflies:

  • Bees, adult butterflies and moths feed from the flowers.


  • Plant parts are used in various ways to treat fevers, chest and digestive problems, malaria and dizziness.
  • Used to treat red water and black gall-sickness.

Poisonous:                       Not poisonous.

Notes of interest:

Pittosporum viridiflorum growing in habitat on a rocky ridge near Heidelburg, southern Gauteng.
  • Trees are browsed by game and stock.
  • The white wood has little value.
  • The powder of dried bark or root is added to beer and considered an aphrodisiac (please be careful)!

Natural Distribution:

  • Found in the WC, EC, eastern FS, Les, KZN, NWP, G, Swa, M, L, and parts of Zim.
  • To the north it is found up to tropical Africa as well as in the Yemen.

Natural Habitat:

  • Grasslands, forest, thickets, savanna-woodland and savanna-bushveld.
  • Grows on wooded rocky slopes and ridges, in woodlands, riverine bush and forest.

© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2012 & 2018.