From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Aspidistra elatior1.jpg
Aspidistra elatior
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Nolinoideae
Genus: Aspidistra
Ker Gawl.
  • Macrogyne Link & Otto
  • Plectogyne Link
  • Porpax Salisb.
  • Antherolophus Gagnep.
  • Colania Gagnep.
  • Evrardiella Gagnep.

Aspidistra /ˌæspɪˈdɪstrə/[2] is a genus of flowering plants in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Nolinoideae, native to eastern and southeastern Asia, particularly China and Vietnam.[1][3] They grow in shade under trees and shrubs. Their leaves arise more or less directly from ground level, where their flowers also appear. The number of species known has increased considerably from the 1980s onwards, with around 100 accepted as of July 2013. Aspidistra elatior is common worldwide as a foliage house plant that is very tolerant of neglect. It and other species can also be grown in shade outside, where they are generally hardy to −5 °C (23 °F).


Species of Aspidistra are perennial herbaceous plants growing from rhizomes. The leaves are either solitary or are grouped in small "tufts" of two to four. They arise more or less directly from the rhizome, rather than being borne on stems. Each leaf has a long stalk (petiole) and a blade with many veins. The flowering stem (scape) is usually very short so that the flowers appear low down among the leaves. The fleshy flowers are bell-, urn- or cup-shaped.[4] They vary considerably in size and shape, although few are showy. The flowers of A. longipedunculata are yellow and, unusually for the genus, are borne on scapes up to 20 cm (8 in) high. A. grandiflora has spider-like flowers up to 12 cm (5 in) across.[5] The flower has a large stigma with a flattened top. The fruit is a berry, often with a single seed.[4]


The genus Aspidistra was named by the English botanist John Ker Gawler in 1822, as a blend of Greek ασπίς/ασπίδ- aspid-, meaning shield, and the name of the sister genus Tupistra.[6] The genus was at one time placed in a broadly defined Liliaceae, along with many other lilioid monocots.[4] It has also been placed in the families Convallariaceae[7] and Ruscaceae.[8] The APG III system of 2009 places it in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Nolinoideae.[9]


Aspidistra is a genus that was largely ignored by field botanists until the 1980s onwards, and there has been a very rapid rise in the number of recognised species since then.[5] Some 8 to 10 species were known in the late 1970s; 30 new species were described from China in the 1980s. Subsequently, more new species were found in Vietnam.[10] The online Flora of China uses a narrow definition of species, producing a total of about 55, saying that the genus has "never been well studied".[4] In 2008, Tillich provided a key to the 93 species known at that time.[8]

Plants of the World Online currently includes:[11]

  1. Aspidistra acetabuliformis Y.Wan & C.C.Huang – China (Guangxi)
  2. Aspidistra alata Tillich – Vietnam (Cao Bang)
  3. Aspidistra albiflora C.R.Lin, W.B.Xu & Yan Liu
  4. Aspidistra albopurpurea Aver. & Tillich
  5. Aspidistra alternativa D.Fang & L.Y.Yu – China (Guangxi)
  6. Aspidistra anomala Aver. & Tillich
  7. Aspidistra arnautovii Tillich – Vietnam (Hai Phong)
  8. Aspidistra atrata Aver., Tillich & B.H.Quang
  9. Aspidistra atroviolacea Tillich
    (synonym A. renatae Bräuchler) – Vietnam (central)
  10. Aspidistra attenuata Hayata
  11. Aspidistra australis S.Z.He & W.F.Xu
  12. Aspidistra austrosinensis Y.Wan & C.C.Huang – China (Guangxi)
  13. Aspidistra austroyunnanensis G.W.Hu, Lei Cai & Q.F.Wang
  14. Aspidistra averyanovii N.S.Lý & Tillich
  15. Aspidistra babensis K.S.Nguyen, Aver. & Tillich
  16. Aspidistra bamaensis C.R.Lin, Y.Y.Liang & Yan Liu
  17. Aspidistra basalis Tillich
  18. Aspidistra bella Aver., Tillich & K.S.Nguyen
  19. Aspidistra bicolor Tillich – Vietnam (Thai Nguyen)
  20. Aspidistra bogneri Tillich – Vietnam (Ninh Binh)
  21. Aspidistra brachypetala C.R.Lin & B.Pan
  22. Aspidistra brachystyla Aver. & Tillich – Vietnam
  23. Aspidistra cadamensis N.S.Lý & Tillich
  24. Aspidistra caespitosa C.Pei – China (Sichuan)
  25. Aspidistra campanulata Tillich – Vietnam (Tuyen Quang)
  26. Aspidistra carinata Y.Wan & X.H.Lu – China (N Guangxi)
  27. Aspidistra carnosa Tillich – Vietnam (Lam Dong)
  28. Aspidistra cavicola D.Fang & K.C.Yen – China (NW Guangxi)
  29. Aspidistra cerina G.Z.Li & S.C.Tang – China (Guangxi)
  30. Aspidistra chishuiensis S.Z.He & W.F.Xu
  31. Aspidistra chongzuoensis C.R.Lin & Y.S.Huang
  32. Aspidistra chunxiuensis C.R.Lin & Yan Liu
  33. Aspidistra clausa Vislobokov
  34. Aspidistra claviformis Y.Wan – China (W Guangxi)
  35. Aspidistra cleistantha D.X.Nong & H.Z.Lü
  36. Aspidistra coccigera Aver. & Tillich
  37. Aspidistra columellaris Tillich
  38. Aspidistra connata Tillich – Vietnam (Gialai-Kontum)
  39. Aspidistra corniculata Vislobokov
  40. Aspidistra crassifila Yan Liu & C.I Peng
  41. Aspidistra cruciformis Y.Wan & X.H.Lu – China (NW Guangxi)
  42. Aspidistra cryptantha Tillich – Vietnam (Cao Bang)
  43. Aspidistra cyathiflora Y.Wan & C.C.Huang – China (Guangxi)
  44. Aspidistra cylindrica Vislobokov & Nuraliev
  45. Aspidistra daibuensis Hayata – Taiwan
  46. Aspidistra daxinensis M.F.Hou & Yan Liu
  47. Aspidistra deflexa Aver., Tillich & V.T.Pham
  48. Aspidistra dodecandra (Gagnep.) Tillich – Indo-China
  49. Aspidistra dolichanthera X.X.Chen – China (SW Guangxi)
  50. Aspidistra ebianensis K.Y.Lang & Z.Y.Zhu – China (Sichuan)
  51. Aspidistra elatior Blume (synonym A.insularis Tillich) Japan (Ōsumi & Kuroshima Islands): houseplant
  52. Aspidistra elegans Aver. & Tillich
  53. Aspidistra erecta Yan Liu & C.I Peng
  54. Aspidistra erosa Aver., Tillich, T.A.Le & K.S.Nguyen
  55. Aspidistra erythrocephala C.R.Lin & Y.Y.Liang
  56. Aspidistra extrorsa C.R.Lin & D.X.Nong
  57. Aspidistra fasciaria G.Z.Li – China (?Guangxi)
  58. Aspidistra fenghuangensis K.Y.Lang – China (W Hunan)
  59. Aspidistra fimbriata F.T.Wang & K.Y.Lang – China (Fujian, Guangdong, Hainan)
  60. Aspidistra flaviflora K.Y.Lang & Z.Y.Zhu – China (SC Sichuan)
  61. Aspidistra foliosa Tillich – Vietnam (Thua Thien)
  62. Aspidistra fungilliformis Y.Wan – China (W Guangxi)
  63. Aspidistra geastrum Tillich – Vietnam (Thua Thien)
  64. Aspidistra glandulosa (Gagnep.) Tillich – Laos (La Khon)
  65. Aspidistra globosa Vislobokov & Nuraliev
  66. Aspidistra gracilis Tillich
  67. Aspidistra graminifolia Aver. & Tillich
  68. Aspidistra grandiflora Tillich – Vietnam (Hoa Binh)
  69. Aspidistra guangxiensis S.C.Tang & Yan Liu – China (Guangxi)
  70. Aspidistra hekouensis H.Li – China (SE Yunnan)
  71. Aspidistra hekouensis H.Li, C.L.Long & Bogner
  72. Aspidistra heterocarpa Aver., Tillich & V.T.Pham
  73. Aspidistra hezhouensis Q.Gao & Yan Liu
  74. Aspidistra huanjiangensis G.Z.Li & Y.G.Wei – China (Gunangxi)
  75. Aspidistra jiangjinensis S.R.Yi & C.R.Lin
  76. Aspidistra jiewhoei Tillich & Škornick.
  77. Aspidistra jingxiensis Yan Liu & C.R.Lin
  78. Aspidistra khangii Aver. & Tillich
  79. Aspidistra laongamensis C.R.Lin & X.Y.Huang
  80. Aspidistra laotica Aver. & Tillich
  81. Aspidistra lateralis Tillich – Vietnam (Thua Thien)
  82. Aspidistra leshanensis K.Y.Lang & Z.Y.Zhu – China (SC Sichuan)
  83. Aspidistra letreae Aver., Tillich & T.A.Le
  84. Aspidistra leucographa C.R.Lin & C.Y.Zou
  85. Aspidistra leyeensis Y.Wan & C.C.Huang – China (NW Guangxi)
  86. Aspidistra liboensis S.Z.He & J.Y.Wu
  87. Aspidistra linearifolia Y.Wan & C.C.Huang – China (W Guangxi)
  88. Aspidistra lingchuanensis C.R.Lin & L.F.Guo
  89. Aspidistra lingyunensis C.R.Lin & L.F.Guo
  90. Aspidistra lobata Tillich – China (Sichuan)
  91. Aspidistra locii Arnautov & Bogner – Vietnam
  92. Aspidistra longanensis Y.Wan – China (WC Guangxi)
  93. Aspidistra longgangensis C.R.Lin, Y.S.Huang & Yan Liu
  94. Aspidistra longiconnectiva C.T.Lu, K.C.Chuang & J.C.Wang
  95. Aspidistra longifolia Hook.f. – India
  96. Aspidistra longiloba G.Z.Li – China (Guangxi)
  97. Aspidistra longipedunculata D.Fang – China (SW Guangxi)
  98. Aspidistra longipetala S.Z.Huang – China (C Guangxi)
  99. Aspidistra longituba Yan Liu & C.R.Lin
  100. Aspidistra longshengensis C.R.Lin & W.B.Xu
  101. Aspidistra lubae Aver. & Tillich
  102. Aspidistra luochengensis B.Pan & C.R.Lin
  103. Aspidistra luodianensis D.D.Tao – China (NW Guangxi, S Guizhou)
  104. Aspidistra lurida Ker Gawl. – China (Guangdong, NC Guangxi, SC Guizhou) - type species
  105. Aspidistra lutea Tillich – Vietnam (Son La)
  106. Aspidistra maguanensis S.Z.He & D.H.Lv
  107. Aspidistra marasmioides Tillich – Vietnam (Hai Phong)
  108. Aspidistra marginella D.Fang & L.Zeng – China (SW Guangxi)
  109. Aspidistra medusa Aver., K.S.Nguyen & Tillich
  110. Aspidistra micrantha Vislobokov & Nuraliev
  111. Aspidistra minor Vislobokov, Nuraliev & M.S.Romanov
  112. Aspidistra minutiflora Stapf – China (N Guangdong, Guangxi, ?Guizhou, Hainan, Hong Kong, SW Hunan)
  113. Aspidistra mirostigma Tillich & Škornick.
  114. Aspidistra molendinacea G.Z.Li & S.C.Tang – China (Guangzi)
  115. Aspidistra multiflora Aver. & Tillich
  116. Aspidistra muricata F.C.How – China (NC & W Guangxi)
  117. Aspidistra mushaensis Hayata – Taiwan
  118. Aspidistra nanchuanensis Tillich – China (Sichuan)
  119. Aspidistra nankunshanensis Yan Liu & C.R.Lin
  120. Aspidistra neglecta Aver., Tillich & K.S.Nguyen
  121. Aspidistra nigra Aver., Tillich & K.S.Nguyen
  122. Aspidistra nikolaii Aver. & Tillich – Vietnam (Annamite Mts.)
  123. Aspidistra nutans Aver. & Tillich
  124. Aspidistra obconica C.R.Lin & Yan Liu
  125. Aspidistra oblanceifolia F.T.Wang & K.Y.Lang – China (S Guizhou, W Hubei, Sichuan)
  126. Aspidistra obliquipeltata D.Fang & L.Y.Yu – China (Guangxi)
  127. Aspidistra oblongifolia F.T.Wang & K.Y.Lang – China (N Guangxi)
  128. Aspidistra obtusata Vislobokov
  129. Aspidistra omeiensis Z.Y.Zhu & J.L.Zhang – China (Sichuan)
  130. Aspidistra opaca Tillich – Vietnam (Khanh Hoa)
  131. Aspidistra ovatifolia Yan Liu & C.R.Lin
  132. Aspidistra oviflora Aver. & Tillich
  133. Aspidistra papillata G.Z.Li – China (Guangxi)
  134. Aspidistra patentiloba Y.Wan & X.H.Lu – China (C Guangxi)
  135. Aspidistra paucitepala Vislobokov, Nuraliev & D.D.Sokoloff
  136. Aspidistra petiolata Tillich – Vietnam (Thua Thien)
  137. Aspidistra phanluongii Vislobokov – Vietnam[12]
  138. Aspidistra pileata D.Fang & L.Y.Yu – China (Guangxi)
  139. Aspidistra pingfaensis S.Z.He & Q.W.Sun
  140. Aspidistra pingtangensis S.Z.He, W.F.Xu & Q.W.Sun
  141. Aspidistra pulchella B.M.Wang & Yan Liu
  142. Aspidistra punctata Lindl. – China (Guandong, Hong Kong)
  143. Aspidistra punctatoides Yan Liu & C.R.Lin
  144. Aspidistra purpureomaculata H.C.Xi, J.T.Yin & W.G.Wang
  145. Aspidistra qijiangensis S.Z.He & X.Y.Luo
  146. Aspidistra quadripartita G.Z.Li & S.C.Tang - China (Guangxi)
  147. Aspidistra quangngaiensis N.S.Lý, Haev. & Tillich
  148. Aspidistra radiata G.W.Hu & Q.F.Wang
  149. Aspidistra recondita Tillich – Vietnam (location not known)
  150. Aspidistra retusa K.Y.Lang & S.Z.Huang – China (NE Guangxi)
  151. Aspidistra revoluta Hao Zhou, S.R.Yi & Q.Gao
  152. Aspidistra ronganensis C.R.Lin, Jing Liu & W.B.Xu
  153. Aspidistra sarcantha Aver., Tillich, T.A.Le & K.S.Nguyen
  154. Aspidistra saxicola Y.Wan – China (WC Guangxi)
  155. Aspidistra semiaperta Aver. & Tillich
  156. Aspidistra sessiliflora Aver. & Tillich
  157. Aspidistra sichuanensis K.Y.Lang & Z.Y.Zhu – China (Guangxi, Guizhou, W Hunan, Sichuan, Yunnan)
  158. Aspidistra sinensis Aver. & Tillich
  159. Aspidistra sinuata Aver. & Tillich
  160. Aspidistra spinula S.Z.He – China (Guizhou)
  161. Aspidistra stellata Aver. & Tillich
  162. Aspidistra stenophylla C.R.Lin & R.C.Hu
  163. Aspidistra stricta Tillich – Vietnam (Lam Dong)
  164. Aspidistra subrotata Y.Wan & C.C.Huang – China (S & W Guangxi), Vietnam (Thai Nguyen)
  165. Aspidistra superba Tillich – Vietnam (Ninh Binh)
  166. Aspidistra sutepensis K.Larsen – Vietnam (Paypa)
  167. Aspidistra synpetala C.R.Lin & Yan Liu
  168. Aspidistra tenuifolia C.R.Lin & J.C.Yang
  169. Aspidistra tillichiana O.Colin
  170. Aspidistra tonkinensis (Gagnep.) F.T.Wang & K.Y.Lang – China (NW Guangxi, S Guizhou, SE Yunnan), Vietnam
  171. Aspidistra triloba F.T.Wang & K.Y.Lang – China (SC Hunan, W Jiangxi)
  172. Aspidistra triquetra Aver., Son, Tillich & K.S.Nguyen
  173. Aspidistra triradiata Vislobokov
  174. Aspidistra truongii Aver. & Tillich – Vietnam[7]
  175. Aspidistra tubiflora Tillich – China (Sichuan)
  176. Aspidistra typica Baill. – China (SW Guangxi, SE Yunnan), Vietnam
  177. Aspidistra umbrosa Tillich – Vietnam (location not known)
  178. Aspidistra urceolata F.T.Wang & K.Y.Lang – China (Guizhou)
  179. Aspidistra ventricosa Tillich & Škornick.
  180. Aspidistra verruculosa Aver., Tillich & D.D.Nguyen - Vietnam (Di Linh plateau)
  181. Aspidistra vietnamensis (Aver. & Tillich) Aver. & Tillich
  182. Aspidistra viridiflora Vislobokov & Nuraliev
  183. Aspidistra wujiangensis W.F.Xu & S.Z.He
  184. Aspidistra xichouensis Lei Cai, Z.L.Dao & G.W.Hu
  185. Aspidistra xilinensis Y.Wan & X.H.Lu – China (NW Guangxi)
  186. Aspidistra xuansonensis Vislobokov
  187. Aspidistra yizhouensis B.Pan & C.R.Lin
  188. Aspidistra yunwuensis S.Z.He & W.F.Xu
  189. Aspidistra zhangii Aver., Tillich & K.S.Nguyen
  190. Aspidistra zhenganensis S.Z.He & Y.Wang
  191. Aspidistra zinaidae Aver. & Tillich
  192. Aspidistra zongbayi K.Y.Lang & Z.Y.Zhu – China (Sichuan)

Distribution and ecology[edit]

Aspidistra flower

Species of Aspidistra are part of the ground flora, growing in forests and under shrubs, in areas of high rainfall,[5] from eastern India, Indochina and China through to Japan.[13] The largest number of species are found in Guangxi Province, China, with Vietnam occupying second place. Few species have a broad distribution, with many being endemic to China or Vietnam.[10]

It has long been said that slugs and snails pollinate Aspidistra flowers.[5] This has been described as a "myth".[10] Amphipods, small terrestrial crustaceans, are responsible for pollinating A. elatior in Japan. Amphipods have also been shown to pollinate species of Aspidistra introduced to Australia. Springtails and fungus gnats have also been suggested as pollinators.[10] The newly described Vietnamese species A. phanluongii is probably pollinated by flies of the genus Megaselia.[12]

Cultivation and uses[edit]

Aspidistra elatior, the "cast-iron plant", is a popular houseplant, surviving shade, cool conditions and neglect. It is one of several species of Aspidistra that can be grown successfully outdoors in shade in temperate climates, where they will generally cope with temperatures down to −5 °C (23 °F), being killed by frosts of −5 to −10 °C (23 to 14 °F) or below. In addition to shade, aspidistras require an open, acidic and humus-rich soil. Species suggested for growing outdoors in the UK include A. diabuensis, A. elatior, A. lurida, A. typica, A. zongbyi and their cultivars.[5]

In Japan, leaves of A. elatior have traditionally been cut into pieces and used in bento and osechi boxes to keep each food separated. However, imitations called "baran" are commonly used now.[citation needed]

In popular culture[edit]

As a popular foliage houseplant, A. elatior became popular in late Victorian Britain and was so common that it became a "symbol of dull middle-class respectability".[6] As such, it was central to George Orwell's novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying, as a symbol of the need of the middle class to maintain respectability according to Gordon Comstock, the novel's protagonist. It was further immortalised in the 1938 song "The Biggest Aspidistra in the World", which, as sung by Gracie Fields, became a popular wartime classic.[14]

Aspidistras can withstand deep shade, neglect, dry soil, hot temperatures and polluted indoor air (from burning coal or natural gas) but are sensitive to bright sunlight.[15]

"Aspidistra" was the codename (inspired by the above song) of a very powerful British radio transmitter used for propaganda and deception purposes against Nazi Germany during World War II.[16]

The 1980s British television show The Adventure Game featured a moving aspidistra called the Rangdo of Arg, operated by Kenny Baker.[17][18]



  1. ^ a b Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  2. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  3. ^ Flora of China, Vol. 24 Page 240, 蜘蛛抱蛋属 zhi zhu bao dan shu, Aspidistra Ker Gawler, Bot. Reg. 8: t. 628. 1822.
  4. ^ a b c d Liang, Songyun & Tamura, Minoru N., Aspidistra, retrieved 16 July 2013, in Wu, Zhengyi; Raven, Peter H. & Hong, Deyuan, eds. (1994), Flora of China (online),
  5. ^ a b c d e Brown 2013
  6. ^ a b Oxford English Dictionary, 1933, s.v.
  7. ^ a b Averyanov, Leonid V.; Tillich, Hans-Juergen (2013), "Aspidistra truongii – a New Species of Asparagaceae (Convallariaceae s.str.) from Southern Vietnam", Taiwania, 58 (2): 108–111, doi:10.6165/tai.2013.58.108
  8. ^ a b Tillich 2008
  9. ^ Chase, M.W.; Reveal, J.L. & Fay, M.F. (2009), "A subfamilial classification for the expanded asparagalean families Amaryllidaceae, Asparagaceae and Xanthorrhoeaceae", Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 161 (2): 132–136, doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00999.x
  10. ^ a b c d Constantine 2008
  11. ^ Plants of the World Online: Aspidistra Ker Gawl. (retrieved 17 October 2021)
  12. ^ a b Vislobokov, Nikolay A.; Kuznetsov, Andrey N. & Sokoloff, Dmitry D. (2013), "A new species of Aspidistra (Ruscaceae s.l., Asparagales) from southern Vietnam, field observations on its flowering and possible pollination by flies (Phoridae)", Plant Systematics and Evolution, 299 (2): 347–355, doi:10.1007/s00606-012-0725-2, S2CID 14059501
  13. ^ "Aspidistra", World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 16 July 2013
  14. ^ "The Biggest Aspidistra in the World"
  15. ^ Aspidistra elatior – Cast Iron Plant, House Plants Guru, 2010, retrieved 16 February 2013
  16. ^ Porter, Dave & Matheson, Andy (2009), "Tricks of the Trade: Aspidistra and OSE5" (PDF), Signal (12): 15–17, archived from the original (PDF) on 6 April 2012, retrieved 15 July 2013
  17. ^ "The Adventure Game". BBC Cult. Retrieved 2 January 2020.
  18. ^ "Forget the Crystal Maze, BBC cult classic The Adventure Game is back". Metro. 21 October 2016. Retrieved 6 January 2020.


External links[edit]