Skip to content

Plant of the month January

Common Name: Paper Gardenia

Scientific Name: Tabernaemontana cerifera Pancher and Sebert

Family: Apocynaceae




Tabernaemontana - for 16th century German botanist known as Tabernaemontanus


cerifera - wax bearing


Widespread on the island of New Caledonia.

Native Habitat

Rainforest or broadleaf evergreen forest at low altitudes in areas of high rainfall.


A small to medium sized evergreen tree or large shrub up
to five metres tall and 3 to 4 metres wide. It has large, glossy bright green leaves arranged in opposing pairs along the stem. Like other members of the Apocynacea family it exudes poisonous white latex like sap when wounded.


Five petalled white star shaped flowers throughout summer. Flowers have a gardenia like fragrance stronger at night. The bases of the petals are fused to make a long thin nectar containing tube.


Green boat shaped pods occur in pairs and can usually be found on the plant from mid to late summer.

Location in the Garden

Various locations including: Spring Walk (bed 33b), Exotic rainforest at the bottom of the Palace Steps.
Extra locations see:



Tabernaemontana is a genus of around 100 species found throughout the tropics including; Asia, Africa, South America, oceanic islands and one species occurs in Australia. They belong to the Apocynaceae family which includes the popular tropical ornamental, Frangipani. Many species are used in traditional medicine or shamanic ceremonial preparations. Scientists have been studying alkaloids found in many species of Tabernaemontana, and researching their potential medicinal applications. Although poisonous the milky sap, leaves and flowers of these plants show great potential for the pharmaceutical industry.

The Paper Gardenia although rarely grown as an ornamental is easy to grow in warm temperate to tropical climate zones. It requires full sun, well drained soil enriched with organic material and benefits from a layer of surface mulch 50 - 100 mm thick. Relatively slow growing and drought sensitive when young it develops into a robust, disease free and resilient tree with age. Pruning is not required as it naturally forms an appealing dome shape with flowers held at the ends of the branches. Plants are often available for purchase at our Growing Friends Nursery, open Monday to Friday 11am - 2pm and Saturday 10am - 2pm.

 Download January's Plant of the Month