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Plant of the Day - Illicium anisatum 'Murasaki no Sato'

New foliage emerges dark purple before fading to deep green around a chartreuse central variegation. Few evergreen shrubs are as rock solid performers for us at the JC Raulston Arboretum as star anise - Illicium anisatum. Over the years we've grown quite a few selections of this species and of other Illiciums including our native I. floridanum and I. parviflorum. Our collection now includes 39 taxa or different forms of anise from 11 different species. Few of these plants can compare to I. anisatum 'Murasaki no Sato' though. We originally received this plant under the name 'Koshuan' but apparently it came from Mr. Yamaguchi of Yamaguchi Rare Plants in Japan who named it (it translates to "purple village"). It has been sold in the US incorrectly as 'Kumson' and with the trademark Purple Glaze. Ultimately we expect it to form a large evergreen shrub. In early spring white 3/4 inch flowers with streaks of pink are carried in clusters of 3-7. New growth emerges glossy, black-purple and slowly fades to dark, forest green surrounding a small pale chartreuse center. The variegation on older leaves is very faint. New flushes are quite showy throughout the season. We have found star anise to be quite cold tolerant, surviving throughout North Carolina with little problem. Plant in sun or shade.

A young plant in our Japanese garden with a mid-summer flush of growth.

Follow me at @jcramark because life is too short for boring plants.

White flowers with pink stripes are quite interesting in spring.

Few temperate plants can match the dark color of the emerging foliage of 'Murasaki no Sato'


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Pic of the Day - Styrax japonicus (Yamaguchi dwarf)

This dwarf selection makes a dense ball. We love the genus Styrax here at the JC Raulston Arboretum and a recent study by Matt Lobdell at the University of Delaware showed the the JCRA had more species than any other garden in the US (19 when he performed his research).  Since that time we've added a few and now have 31 total taxa of Styrax including a couple of as yet unidentified species from Vietnam and quite a few selections of Styrax japonicus.  One that we are extremely excited about is a dwarf form from the acclaimed Japanese plant collector Yamaguchi-san that he gave me a few years ago.  It makes a tight ball of deep green foliage and although we have not yet seen it flower, Mr. Yamaguchi tells me it flowers well with typical white flowers that are a bit smaller than the species.  We hope to be able to propagate it next year and begin distributing Styrax japonicus (Yamaguchi dwarf) to nurserymen and our members in the near future.  If you think of a great name for this plant, let me know - some names rattling around in my head include 'Yamaguchi Cutie', 'Emerald Snow Globe', or if we are going for the obscure 'Emerald Tope' (to play on J.C.'s selection 'Emerald Pagoda', a tope is a dome shaped monument to house Buddhist relics but it is also a small gray-skinned shark - think of the gray fruits - and also means to drink to excess, kanpai!).

Yamaguchi-san next toan ancient Cryptomeria on my 2011 visit to Japan.

Detail from Mathew Lobdell's poster on Styrax.