This is a rounded, medium-sized shrub with shining, dark green leaves. These are opposite, and are usually divided into three oval leaflets; they are pitted with numerous oil glands (which can be seen if the leaf is held up to the light) and give off a pungent odour when crushed. The 5-petalled, white flowers are borne in terminal clusters of 3-6; they are about 2.5-3cm across and sweetly scented, appearing from spring throughout the summer months, and often well into the autumn.
A well-known cultivar 'Sundance' has leaves which are gold to lime green. The species has hybridised with Choisya arizonica to give Choisya 'Aztec Pearl', a popular modern cultivar, which has leaves divided into much more slender leaflets, and flowers which are pink in bud, opening white.
Introduced from Mexico in 1825.
The genus was named after Jaques Denis Choisy, 1799-1859, a Swiss botanist and Professor of Philosophy at Geneva. The name ternata refers to clusters of three, the leaves usually being divided into three leaflets.