It is a shrub from 30 cm to 170 cm tall with evergreen foliage. In some exceptional cases the shrub can grow up to 3 m in height. The leaves are opposite, oval, 1-2 cm long and 1-1.5 cm broad, entire, glossy dark green, with a spicy scent if crushed. The flowers are drooping, 1 cm diameter with four or five white or pale pink petals and numerous short stamens; the fruit is a small red, white or purple berry 1 cm diameter with a strong strawberry flavour. In its natural habitat; the Valdivian temperate rain forests the fruit matures in autumn from March to May.
The fruit is cultivated to a small extent for the production of strawberry flavouring. It was first described by Juan Ignacio Molina (hence its name) in 1782. It was introduced to England in 1844 by the botanist and plant collector William Lobb, where it became a favourite fruit of Queen Victoria. It is also grown as an ornamental plant.
The usage of murta in cuisine is limited to southern Chile where it grows. It is used to make the traditional liqueur Murtado that is made of aguardiente and sugar flavoured by conserving murtas inside the bottle. It is also used to make jam and the Murta con membrillo dessert.