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100 Species #34: Japanese pachysandra



These Japanese pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis) blossoms are spreading from my neighbor's yard, under their fence and onto the retaining wall that marks the boundary.

Japanese pachysandra is a cultivated ground cover that retains its leaves in winter. It is a widely used plant, and is sometimes encountered in a semi-wild state, left over from garden refuse or spread from a long-forgotten planting. It occurred in this blog before as 365 Urban Species #363.

Photos by cottonmanifesto. Location: Netherlands Road, Brookline.

Urban species #363: Japanese pachysandra Pachysandra terminalis

English ivy, periwinkle, and Japanese pachysandra are, by far, the most commonly planted evergreen ground cover plants in Boston, and many other cities. Pachysandra is fairly described as "overused," but it is so useful that it is hard to fault landscapers who choose it. It is shade tolerant, and so may be grown underneath trees or tall buildings. It is resistant to herbivores, so it is safe to plant in the suburbs without fear of being denuded by deer and rabbits. And it does its job well, forming a low-maintenance carpet that can be easily kept within the desired boundaries.

Pachysandra is an Asian native that, once introduced to a new place, doesn't seem to participate very much in the local ecology. It does prevent other plants from growing, by forming a thick mat of plants, but it spreads very slowly, and is considered at worst mildly invasive. Its small flowers are visited by honeybees, but because cultivated pachysandra is usually composed of single-sex clones, fruit rarely develops. A North American relative, Allegheny pachysandra (Pachysandra procumbens) is promoted by native plant enthusiasts, but loses its leaves in northern winters, and so will not become popular in Boston.


This sad group of pachysandra plants in front of my building is suffering from poor soil drainage, I believe.

semi-wild pachysandraCollapse )

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