Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Aspidistra Elatior

Aspidistra elatior in Seattle snow

With the weird weather we’ve had (unusual snow fall amounts and cold, down to 17 degrees at night) here in Seattle, there is one plant that we don’t have to worry about and that’s the Aspidistra elatior, Cast Iron Plant. We have a number of them in our yard and they are hardy. About the only thing I would say it doesn’t like is full sun because the leaves tend to get bleached out. Other than sun, the plant is pretty flexible. We have A. elatior in various situations: potted, in the ground, north side of the house, west side, medium light, and low light. We rarely water it. 

The genus name, Aspidistra, comes from the Greek word for shield aspis –referring to the shape of the long, tapered evergreen leaves (correction: it refers to the shape of the stigma). A common name for A. elatior is “cast iron plant” - named because of its durability under all sorts of tough conditions (like a sooty Victorian parlor perhaps?). The plant originates from East Asian forest floors and not until recently was it understood that the plant is pollinated by tiny terrestrial crustaceans called amphipods

2021-07-16 Update

It appears that it might be fungus gnats that are doing the pollinating.  For more information, see Subterranean flowers of Aspidistra elatior are mainly pollinated by not terrestial amphipods but fungus gnats.  For photos of the flowers of Aspidistra, see the aforementioned reference or our companion blog post, Aspidistra elatior flower.

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