The long list of common names (Black Ash, Grey Bollywood, Hairy Leaved Bollygum, Native Mulberry, Pigeon-berry Tree, Velvet-leaf Bollywood, White Bollygum, White Bollywood) must be a reflection of how common this species is. There is hardly a roadside edge in the tropics, especially mid-altitudes and above, where one does not encounter this small tree or shrub. Indeed, this species is quite clearly associated with disturbed areas in rainforest, although it is one of those interesting successional species that appears to tolerate very shaded environments as well.
The species grows up to 12 metres high. The glossy, elliptic to obovate leaves have whitish undersides – a result of a waxy covering. Other Lauraceae do this too, but this species and the related Neolitsea brassii is instantly distinguished from other genera by their leaves appearing in whorls along the stem.
The often dull-purplish younger leaves and branchlets are covered with brown hairs. The flowers are in tight clusters, and give rise to attractive small berry-like fruits which ripen black.