Aspidistra

Botanical Name :Aspidistra elatior
Family: Convallariaceae/Ruscaceae
Genus : Aspidistra
Synonyms : Aspidistra lurida – Ker-Gawl.
Common Name :
Cast-iron Plant
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asparagales
Species: A. elatior

Habitat :Although sometimes thought to be of Chinese origin, the species is in fact native to islands in southern Japan including Kuroshima, Suwanosejima and the Uji Islands. It occurs in association with overstorey species such as Ardisia sieboldii and Castanopsis sieboldii  E. Asia – Japan – Kuroshima, Suwanose, and Uji Islands. An understory plant, found growing in forests beneath Ardisia crenata and Castanopsis sieboldii. Woodland Garden; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; Ground Cover;

Description:
Aspidistra elatior  is a rhizomatous perennial. It is a stemless plant to 1 metre in height with dark green leaves. Small, solitary purplish flowers may appear at the base of the plant in spring.
It is hardy to zone 7. It is in leaf all year, in flower from January to April. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Slugs, snails.

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Aspidistra elatior is a staple of the shade garden. It has wide, evergreen leaves that rise up from tough, rhizomatous roots. The lance shaped leaves are dark green and leathery, and around 12-20 in (30-50 cm) long. The aspect of cast-iron plant is decidedly vertical. Some types of aspidistra are variegated with creamy streaks or dots; some are shorter than the species. The plants spread in clumps, vigorously but at a moderate enough rate not to be invasive or even troublesome. The flowers are borne close to the ground and never even seen unless one deliberately searches for them.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, requires well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland). It requires dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

Medicinal Uses
Febrifuge; Styptic; Tonic.

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The roots, stems and leaves are febrifuge, styptic and tonic. Strengthens bones and muscles. A decoction of the root, stems or leaves is used in the treatment of abdominal cramps, amenorrhoea, diarrhoea, myalgia, traumatic injuries and urinary stones.

Other Uses:
Ground cover.
Aspidistras can be grown as a ground cover in a shady position.

Aspidistra is often grown in a container as a porch or patio plant, or as a house plant. In landscapes, it can be used as a border or be planted in a drift around trees, or to fill a planter under an overhang. In his North Florida garden, Steve has a stand of them growing in almost total shade at the base of a large live oak tree. Florists use the leaves in arrangements, where they lend drama and provide an excellent background for flowers. The leaves of cast-iron plant are especially long lasting in arrangements.

Cultivation :
Prefers a shady position in a rich well-drained soil. Tolerates poor soils and drought. Almost hardy in Britain[1], plants can withstand temperatures down to about -15°c if they are well sited. A plant growing under shrubs in Worcestershire has survived in the garden for over 30 years. This plant used to be commonly grown as a house plant, it tolerates considerable neglect.

Propagation:
Seed – sow spring in a greenhouse. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on for at least their first winter in the greenhouse. Plant them out in late spring or early summer after the last expected frosts. Division as the plant comes into growth in the spring. Suckers. Best removed in the autumn and grown on in the greenhouse for the first winter.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


Resources:

http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Aspidistra+elatior
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspidistra_elatior
http://www.floridata.com/ref/a/aspi_ela.cfm
http://www.plantoftheweek.org/week078.shtml
http://www.plantoftheweek.org/week078.shtml

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