In My Garden – Pittosporum tenuifolium James Stirling


Pittosporum is an evergreen flowering plant found across Australasia, Oceania, eastern Asia and some parts of Africa. Some species are no more than shrubs while others grow into trees of up to 12 metres in height. The leaves spiral around slender woody branchlets and are oval in shape, often with a waved margin.  The flowers are bell shaped with five petals and five sepals and are often scented. The genus Pittosporum is named after their sticky seeds, (from the Greek pitta meaning pitch and spora meaning seed). The pittosporum fruit is a woody seed capsule, which contains numerous seeds coated with a sticky resinous substance.

The Pittosporum tenuifolium James Stirling is native to New Zealand but became popular in Australia in the 1970s. It is named after James Stirling, a Scottish gardener, who migrated to New Zealand and was the head of the Ministry of Works gardening section and a popular gardening expert on New Zealand television. This pittosporum can grow up to 10 metres high with a spread of 1.5 metres. The leaves are silver-green and the flowers a dark purple-red with yellow stamen. Its light scent is only apparent at night.  Like all pittosporums, the James Stirling is very hardy, tolerating full sun to partial shade as well as dry soil; however, summer watering will result in better foliage. Pruning will also increase the density of the foliage.  Often used as screening plants, if planted 1 metre apart, they are ideal for a swift growing hedge.

Pittosporum James Stirling

The James Stirling is an ideal plant for my usual regime of benign neglect. I planted two in the mid-1990s, far too closely together so that they now give the appearance, from a distance, of a single tree. I have not regularly watered them since they were established but they would, no doubt, have drawn moisture from the watering of nearby plants. They have never been pruned so they are now about their full 10 metres in height. As they are on the north side of the yard they provide dappled shade to a number of other plants at the height of summer. They have also provided a home to many generations of nesting spotted doves.

8 thoughts on “In My Garden – Pittosporum tenuifolium James Stirling

  1. Pingback: In My Garden – Birds (Native and Otherwise) | Catherine Meyrick

      • Thank you, if you want his Whakapapa or history his daughter is alive, and resides in Te Kowhai area. She is my children’s Grandmother and has some interesting facts about him. He also had a gardening show on TV I believe just prior to Eoin Scarrow.
        cheers TJ


        • Thank you, I’m not really planning to write any more at the moment but I will keep her details. I have removed her name from this post as these comments are public and she might not like having her name there for random people to get in touch. But if you think she would be happy about it, I will put them back in.


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