Gardenia thunbergia is a hardy evergreen tree or shrub characterised with a shiny leaf and reaching a mature height of 2 to 5m. It is a slow growing tree common in KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape. This tree is usually found growing naturally in evergreen forests, forest margins, woodlands and bushvelds.

Wild gardenia’s glossy leaves are dark green with rounded or pointed tips and taper at the base. The pale grey bark and the tree’s angular structure makes it an interesting plant when established in a pot. Wild gardenia bears heavily scented, saucer-shaped white flowers in summer [from October to February]. The scented flowers attract a variety of moths and birds thereby making this tree suitable for wildlife gardens. Fruits of this tree are egg-shaped, up to 10cm long, grey-green with scattered raised white spots.

This tree prefers compost rich soils and grow equally well both under full sun and semi-shade conditions. Although this tree is drought tolerant, drought stress can cause buds to fall before opening. It can tolerate low winter temperatures of up to -1˚C. G. thunbergia can be planted as a single specimen in the garden or to line a pathway creating a formal hedge. It can also be used for bonsai.