Serissa japonica, commonly known as snowbush, snowrose or tree of a thousand stars, is a small, stiffly-branched, evergreen to semi-evergreen to deciduous shrub that typically grows to 2-4’ tall with a slightly wider spread. It is native to moist open woodlands, wet meadows, streambanks and forested slopes in subtropical areas of India, China and Japan. This genus has only one species, namely S. japonica, which was formerly known as S. foetida (now a synonym). This shrub is grown for its dense foliage, rough gray bark and long spring to fall bloom of star-shaped white flowers.
Branching wiry stems form a bushy dome. Stems are clad with tiny, opposite, densely crowded, somewhat leathery, pointed, ovate, deep green leaves (to 1/4 to 1/2” long). Leaves emit a fetid smell when bruised or crushed as described by the prior specific epithet of foetida. Funnel-shaped, star-like, white flowers (to 1/3” across) emerge from pink buds in a long spring to fall bloom. Flowers have tubular bases and 4-6 spreading petal-like lobes. Flowers appear singly or in clusters from the leaf axils and branch ends, often covering the entire shrub with bloom as suggested by the sometimes used common name of tree of a thousand stars.
‘Variegata’ has a white margin around the edge of the leaves and a white mid-vein.