Aucuba species are native to eastern Asia, from the eastern Himalayas east to China, Korea, and Japan. The name is a latinization of Japanese Aokiba. They are evergreen shrubs or small trees 2–13 m tall, similar in appearance to the laurels of the genus Laurus, having glossy, leathery leaves, and are among the shrubs that are mistakenly called laurels in gardens.
The leaves are opposite, broad lanceolate, 8–25 cm long and 2–7 cm broad, with a few large teeth on the margin near the apex of the leaf. Aucubas are dioecious, having separate male and female plants. Flowers are small, 4–8 mm diameter, each with four purplish-brown petals; 10-30 are in loose cymes. Fruit are red drupes about 1 cm in diameter.
Gardening in North America
Sowing Seeds. Clean the outer fleshy pulp from the seeds, which may be sown as soon as the fruit ripens (in the autumn). Can be planted in pots. Soil should be sandy and around 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cuttings. Perhaps the best way to propagate is by taking cuttings in the spring. Cuttings will grow roots in a few weeks.
Where to Plant. Aucubas may be planted outside but starting in zone 6 plants should be kept in sheltered locations. Does well beneath trees as it thrives in shade and dry areas. No special feeding is required and plants tend to grow into desirable bush shapes with very little pruning. For the best crop of drupes, plant a male plant among every six female plants.
- Aucuba albopunctifolia. Southern China. Shrub to 2–6 m tall.
- Aucuba chinensis. Southern China, Taiwan, Myanmar, northern Vietnam. Shrub to 3–6 m tall.
- Aucuba chlorascens. Southwest China (Yunnan). Shrub to 7 m tall.
- Aucuba confertiflora. Southwest China (Yunnan). Shrub to 4 m tall.
- Aucuba eriobotryifolia. Southwest China (Yunnan). Small tree to 13 m tall.
- Aucuba filicauda. Southern China. Shrub to 4 m tall.
- Aucuba himalaica. Eastern Himalaya, southern China, northern Myanmar. Small tree to 8–10 m tall.
- Aucuba japonica. Southern Japan, southern Korea, Taiwan, southeast China (Zhejiang). Shrub to 4 m tall.
- Aucuba obcordata. Southern China. Shrub to 4 m tall.
- Aucuba robusta. Southern China (Guangxi). Shrub.
- Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
- Alice M. Coats, Garden Shrubs and Their Histories (1964) 1992, s.v. "Aucuba".
- "With characteristic perversity, we deny the name of laurel to the only member of that genus that we cultivate—Laurus nobilis—which we call the Bay, and bestow it on a number of totally unconnected shrubs", observes Alice M. Coats.
- Flora of China Vol. 14 Page 222, 桃叶珊瑚属 tao ye shan hu shu, Aucuba Thunberg, Nov. Gen. Pl. 3: 61. 1783.
- New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Gardening Volume Two. New York, USA: Greystone Press. 1964. p. 139.
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