Variable, evergreen shrub or small tree, occurring naturally in coastal and lowland forests throughout the North Island, the northern part of the South Island of New Zealand, and the Chatham Islands. Also found in southern Africa, tropical America, the Pacific Islands, and throughout Australia. Alternate, linear to lanceolate, pale to mid-green, sticky leaves, 4-10 cm long and 1-3 cm wide. Tiny creamy yellow, usually unisexual flowers in spring, with male and female flowers borne mostly on separate trees. In summer, female flowers are followed by conspicuous, 1-2 cm wide, winged seed capsules. These capsules are pale yellow, gradually turning reddish brown, starting from the edges of the wings. Attractive red-brown bark, peeling in stringy flakes. Very tough wood, black with white streaks.
Prefers a sunny or semi-shaded position in well-draining soil. Tends to become leggy when light levels are too low. Tolerates light to moderate frosts (zone 9), coastal conditions, dry soils, and strong winds. Does not tolerate wet soils. Prune regularly and lightly to keep compact. Responds to trimming for hedging purposes.
Versatile, fast-growing plant. Dodonaea viscosa can be grown as a specimen tree by gradually removing the lower branches, showing off the bark and developing an interesting, irregular crown, shaped by the wind in exposed situations. Although predominantly used as a foliage plant, a tree laden with seed capsules is a sight to behold. Excellent choice for a hedge, in particular in coastal areas, and when alternated with other hedging plants. Also makes a good filler or backdrop for lower-growing shrubs with different textures and/or foliage colours.