Foliage Friday: Choisya Orange Blossom

I’m continuing with Foliage Fridays. I had a few other ideas for a Friday series (recipes, native plants, …) but for now I’m sticking with Foliage Fridays. I still can’t identify many of the plants in my own backyard, and I’d really like to change that!

Today’s Foliage Friday is this shrub around the back of our house by the porch steps. It’s growing in a part shade area.

It is evergreen, with palmately compound leaves of three, and in the spring, it has white blossoms.

This shrub is Choisya ternata (pronounced CHOIZ-e-a) aka Mexican Orange or Mock Orange Blossom. This shrub is native to Mexico and Southwest US (Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona), and is hardy to zone 7. Although it doesn’t look like something you would see in the desert, when we had that crazy 113ºF degree heatwave this summer, many of our plants wilted and some of the leaves shriveled and burned, but this guy didn’t miss a beat. He’s from Arizona and can handle the heat!

It’s called Mexican Orange or Mock Orange because the flowers resemble orange blossoms and they apparently have a similar scent too. I don’t recall noticing any scent coming from this shrub when it’s in bloom. The leaves, when crushed, give off a very distinct bitter aroma that I can only describe as a combination of basil and the pith of an orange. It’s not exactly pleasant, but I wouldn’t call it unpleasant either. Mexican Orange is deer resistant, and I can imagine the deer don’t care for the scent of the leaves.

I’ve lived with Mexican Orange for nearly two decades now, and until today, I had never thought to smell the leaves of this unassuming shrub! This is why I enjoy Foliage Fridays. I look forward to seeing (and smelling!) it’s blossoms next spring. If you have Mexican Orange where you live, crush some of the leaves and take a whiff.

On an unrelated note, remember the Japanese Anemone Foliage Friday from a few weeks ago? I saw the first anemone bloom in our yard!

How adorable!

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