Description from Flora of China
Cleyera japonica Thunberg, Nov. Gen. Pl. 69. 1783; C. dubia Champion; C. fragrans Champion; Mokofua japonica (Thunberg) Kuntze; Taonabo japonica (Thunberg) Szyszyłowicz; Ternstroemia dubia (Champion) Choisy; T. fragrans (Champion) Choisy; T. mokof Nakai.
Shrubs or trees, 3-10 m tall. Bark grayish brown or dark brown, smooth. Young branches grayish brown; current year branchlets reddish brown, glabrous. Petiole 5-10 mm, glabrous; leaf blade elliptic, obovate-elliptic, or broadly elliptic, (4-)5-7 × (1.4-)2.2-3 cm, leathery, abaxially pale green or glaucous green, adaxially dark green, both surfaces glabrous, midvein abaxially elevated and adaxially impressed, secondary veins 4-6 on each side of midvein, abaxially visible or obscure, and adaxially slightly impressed, base cuneate, margin entire, apex acute and with an obtuse to retuse tip. Flowers axillary, solitary or several clustered on leafless branches. Male flowers similar to bisexual flowers but ovary reduced to a pistillode. Bisexual flowers 1-1.5 cm in diam.; pedicel 1-1.5 cm; bracteoles 2, triangular-ovate, ca. 1.5 mm, apex acute to acuminate; sepals broadly ovate to suborbicular, ca. 3 × 3-3.5 mm, margin lacerately serrate, apex rounded; petals white or pale yellowish
white, broadly obovate, 4.5-5 × 5-5.5 mm; stamens 40-45, ca. 4.5 mm; anthers oblong, 2.5-3 mm, connective exserted; ovary elliptic-ovoid, 2-loculed with 2-3 ovules per locule; style apically 2-lobed. Fruit ellipsoid, 1.2-1.5 × ca. 1 cm, 2-loculed with 2(or 3) seeds per locule. Seeds long reniform, ca. 5 × 3 mm. Fl. Jun-Jul, fr. Oct-Nov.
The type specimen and Thunberg’s original description of Cleyera japonica include elements of both Cleyera and Ternstroemia. Thunberg subsequently transferred C. japonica to Ternstroemia but without resolving the problem of the name being based on two different elements. Siebold and Zuccarini (Fl. Jap. 148. 1841) emended Thunberg’s description of T. japonica to include only the Ternstroemia element. See also the discussion under the genus Cleyera and under C. japonica.
Evergreen broad-leaved forests; middle elevations. Taiwan [Japan].