Description from Flora of China
Shrubs or trees, 2-10 m tall. Young branches grayish brown, terete; current year branchlets brown, slightly 2-ribbed, glabrous; terminal buds long conic, 1-1.5 cm, glabrous. Petiole 7-10(-12) mm, glabrous; leaf blade elliptic, narrowly elliptic, oblong, oblong-elliptic, oblong-lanceolate, obovate, or obovate-elliptic, (3.5-)5-15 × (1.2-)2.5-6 cm, leathery, abaxially pale green, adaxially dark green and shiny, both surfaces glabrous, midvein level or rarely abaxially elevated and adaxially slightly impressed, secondary veins 6-8(-12) on each side of midvein and visible on both surfaces or abaxially obscure, base cuneate to broadly cuneate, margin entire, apex acute to acuminate and sometimes with an obtuse to retuse tip. Flowers axillary, solitary to 3(-5) in a cluster. Pedicel 1-3 mm, glabrous; bracteoles caducous. Sepals ovate to orbicular, ca. 2.5 × 2.5 mm, margin ciliolate, apex rounded. Petals white, obovate-oblong, ca. 8 mm. Stamens 25-30, 4-6 mm; filaments glabrous; anthers ovate to long ovate, ca. 1.5 mm, with filiform trichomes, connective exserted. Ovary globose, glabrous, 2-loculed, more than 10 ovules per locule; style ca. 6 mm, apically 2-lobed. Fruit purplish black when mature, globose, 8-10 mm in diam. Seeds dark brown, compressed, shiny, ca. 2 mm in diam. Fl. May-Jul, fr. Oct-Dec. 2n = 90.
The type specimen and Thunberg’s original description of Cleyera japonica include elements of both Cleyera and Ternstroemia. Siebold and Zuccarini (Fl. Jap. 153. 1841) emended Thunberg’s description to include only the Cleyera element as C. japonica. See also the discussion under T. japonica. The name C. japonica has often been mistakenly applied to other Cleyera species in the literature.
Forests or thickets on mountain slopes or in valleys; 200-2000 m. S Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, E and N Guangxi, SE Guizhou, Henan, W Hubei, Hunan, S Jiangsu, Jiangxi, E and W Sichuan, Taiwan, SE Xizang, W Yunnan, Zhejiang [N India, Japan, Myanmar, Nepal].