Wednesday, September 27, 2023

PLANT NOTES: Mountain Lover

| April 14, 2022 3:33 PM

Plant Notes from the Arboretum

Mountain Lover (Paxistima myrsinites)

Mountain lover (Paxistima myrsinites) is a low-growing, evergreen shrub with glossy, dark green leaves. As the name implies, it prefers mountain slopes in the understory of pine and fir forests, but is highly adaptable. Common to the western United States and Canada, Mountain Lover is one of only two extant species in the Celastraceae (Bittersweet) family.

The other, Canby's Mountain Lover (P. canbyi) grows in the southern Appalachian mountains. Additional species, now extinct, have been identified from fossils.

Mountain Lover, also called Oregon Boxwood and Myrtle Boxwood, grows well from the coast to subalpine regions, in dry to moist habitats. It is drought tolerant, but grows best in partly shaded, well-drained soils.

In late spring to early summer (depending on latitude and altitude) fragrant, reddish blooms with four, tiny oval petals appear in clusters in the leaf axils. The flowers mature to a white oblong seed capsule. Mountain Lover reproduces via seed, but is more easily propagated by cuttings. After low- to moderate-severity fires, Mountain Lover regrows from taproot buds or from the root crown.

In a garden setting, easy-care Mountain Lover provides year-round greenery. It can be shaped by pruning and makes attractive, low (up to 3 feet) hedges and borders, as well as understory groundcover in wooded areas. Along shorelines Mountain Lover offers erosion control, and around the base of homes it is an attractive foundation cover. The thick, toothed leaves can winter burn if too exposed.

Look for Mountain Lover on the berm along Ella Street at the North Idaho Native Plant Arboretum. Open to the public, parking for the Arboretum is at 611 S. Ella Ave. or on the street.

Mountain Lover is found on page 86 of publication Landscaping with Native Plants in the Idaho Panhandle, available at local bookstores and the Bonner County History Museum.

Native Plant Notes are created by the Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society. To learn more about KNPS and the North Idaho Native Plant Arboretum, visit

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