Known as Canelo in its homelands, this hardy shrub/small tree is native to moist lowland sites including temperate rainforests and coastal forests in Chile and Argentina. Although it prefers moisture, it is known for its ability to respond and adapt to changes in its environment (known as ‘phenotypic plasticity’), growing in dry arid sites as well as wetlands.
The bark of this tree is rich in Vitamin C and has been used by indigenous communities in South America for centuries. It was made known to Europeans in 1580 by John Wynter, captain of a ship accompanying Francis Drake’s global expedition, and so for centuries before vitamin C was isolated”Winter’s Bark” was used as a preventive and remedy for scurvy— including by Captain Cook’s crew in the South Pacific.
The soft grey bark, which is aromatic and pungent, is harvested in the autumn and winter and is dried for later use. In Brazil, Chile and Argentina it is powdered and used as a pepper substitute. It contains the same substance as the NZ native Horopito. It can also be made into a bitter tonic herb to relieve indigestion, and is antiscorbutic, aromatic, febrifuge, stimulant and stomachic. It can be used as an insect repellent and fumigant.
Winter’s Bark wood is mahogany-red in color and heavy, with a very beautiful grain. It is used for furniture and musical instruments but is not durable outdoors.
The tree is very attractive with its large glossy leaves and striking white spring flowers which have a delicate jasmine scent. The leaves are also aromatic when crushed. Winter’s Bark was a symbol of peace to the indigenous Indian tribes of South America in much the same way as an olive branch was used in Greece.
Caution: The sap of this plant can cause serious inflammation if it comes into contact with the eyes.
Height to approx 7 – 12 metres but very variable depending on conditions. Frost hardy to somewhere between -10 and -20 degrees. Evergreen.
PB5 Height approx 1m. Certified organic plant.