Native to the Mediterranean, this venerable shrub has never quite made its mark in the South. It's a bulky, dense, rounded plant with fine-textured foliage: glossy, bright green, oval, pointed leaves to 2 in. long, pleasantly aromatic when brushed or bruised. Typically reaches 56 ft. high and 45 ft. wide (though old plants may reach 15 ft. high, 20 ft. wide). White, sweet-scented, -in. flowers with many stamens bloom in summer; they are followed by small, bluish black berries. Good for a foundation planting or informal hedge or screen; requires little or no pruning. Also takes well to shearing into a formal hedge or topiary; can be pruned like a small tree to reveal attractive branches. Best in fertile, well-drained soil. Fairly common in Florida but does not tolerate salt spray. Not usually bothered by deer.
Named selections vary in foliage character and overall size. 'Variegata' fits the basic description but has white-edged leaves. 'Boetica' is especially upright, with thick, twisted branches and larger, darker leaves. 'Buxifolia' has small leaves like those of boxwood (Buxus). Dwarf forms include 'Compacta', a small-leafed selection popular for edgings and low formal hedges; 'Compacta Variegata', similar but with white-margined foliage; and 'Microphylla', with tiny, closely set leaves.