Drimys winteri (winter’s bark) is native to Central and South America. In its native habitat it is described as a “slender tree that can grown up to 20m”. The RHS describes it only as “higher than 12m” and taking 20 to 50 years to reach ultimate height.
Its fame comes from its Vitamin C-rich bark which was used for centuries to cure scurvy in sailors, a fact stumbled on by Captain
William John Winter, a doctor and the commander of the Elizabeth on the 1577-80 circumnavigation by Sir Francis Drake (five ships took part) when the ships were in the Straits of Magellan.
He was shown how to make “tea” from the bark in Patagonia – during the long winters when no fresh fruit or vegetables were available locals ate the bark. (You have to wonder what drove them to that in the first place, don’t you?)
It was apparently also used by explorer Captain James Cook, along with other things, to keep his crew safe from the fatal disease on his late 18th century voyages. A drawing by Joseph Banks appears in his Endeavour Journal 1768-71 (Vol 1).
Drimys winteri needs a sheltered frost-free spot.