T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network

Pieris japonica (Lily of the Valley Shrub)

Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Ericaceae
Genus: Pieris
Species: P. japonica
Binomial name: Pieris japonica
Common names: Lily of the Valley Shrub, Lily of the Valley bush, Japanese pieris, Japanese andromeda

Pieris japonica is a plant in the heather family, Ericaceae. It is native to eastern China, Taiwan, and Japan where it grows in mountain thickets. The flowers resemble lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria), hence the common name. It is also widely cultivated in gardens, and is the parent to all the cultivated hybrids. 

Pieris japonica is a compact, symmetrical, evergreen shrub or a small tree (1–4 metres tall, occasionally up to 10 metres) with alternate, simple, leathery leaves on brittle stems. It has striking red new leaf growth in spring.
The flower buds are produced in late autumn and remain unopened throughout the winter before opening in spring into cascading clusters of small, white, urn shaped flowers. The flowers last usually for two or three weeks.

All parts of the Pieris species are highly poisonous if consumed by people or animals. The leaves and nectar from flowers are especially poisonous due to over 30 different chemicals that act as "cardiac glycocides". They include a toxic principle grayanotoxins (formally called andromedotoxin). Ingestion can cause a disruption in sodium channels affecting the cardiac and skeletal muscle.
Symptoms of poisoning are tingling sensation, salivation, nose and eyes watering, nausea, vomiting, sweating, abdominal pain, headache, depression, weakness, convulsions, diarrhoea, heart arrhythmias, hypotension (drop in blood pressure); may be fatal. For hundreds of years Pieris japonica has been written into literature as the "poisonous plant" used in countless murders.

Pieris japonica striking red new leaf growth in spring.

A cultivars flowers.

Thanks to Wikipedia for text and information: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/