Plant of the Month - May 2013
The genus Chloranthus comprises 17 species, all from temperate to tropical Asia; 13 species can be found in China of which 9 are endemic. In the wild it inhabits forests favouring shaded, wet places and along streamsides. As the name suggests Chloranthus japonicus can be found in Japan but it also grows in China, Korea and Russia (Included in the Red Book of Russia)
Identification is straight forward but does require a hand lens when examining the stamens, of which there are 3, the central having no anther ( a defining character of this species). There are normally 4 leaves clustered towards the top of the stem in a sort of false-whirl arrangement, these are broadly elliptic or obovate, the margins of which are sharply serrate.
A perennial herb which is usually between 30-60 cm tall in height with thin but strong stems rising from thick fleshy roots. The stems can be green through to a mahogany brown colour. The flowers are white, small but numerous and fragrant located at the top of the stems . It flowers from May to June; the leaves persisting throughout the summer. In cultivation it prefers a light and moist soil in part shade as would be expected of a species found naturally in mixed and deciduous forests. It is fully frost-resistant throughout the UK. Propagation is either by seed; seedlings develop slowly, or vegetatively by division of the rhizome.