Greetings from Pawleys Island!
We have several of these trees growing around the edge of our property that we moved into last year — a coastal location (200 yds west of the salt creek). These are found growing in a variety of soil types, some of which are under oaks in the shade are roughly 5′ in height (not blooming) and others with greater sun exposure but poor soil are about 8′ in height.
I had initially thought they were some sort of Osmanthus — maybe wild American Olive — but the buds formed recently make me think otherwise.
Would love to know what this is! I found a small young plant next to one of the larger trees that I’m hoping to pot and maintain as a bonsai.
Thanks so much for the help!
what you have there, believe it or not, is a Gardenia in fruit. They are commonly grown in South Carolina – I have not seen them spread, personally. I think this is Gardenia jasminoides, which is one of the species most commonly planted. The fruits are very distinctive. Yours must be quite old to be that tall! See http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/landscape/shrubs/hgic1065.html
Steven Hill, Ph.D., Botanist, SCNPS