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Ligularia, Farfugium, Senecio, Oh My!

By Dawn Parish Ligularia are slowly yet surely gaining an important place in our landscapes. They are durable evergreens for the shade, often with little disease or insect pressure. There are several varieties available that offer interesting foliage patterns and colors. The only common name I've seen seems to be Leopard Plant, but that name most aptly describes a single cultivar called `Aureomaculata', which until recently was the only spotted cultivar available. Just as we've gotten used to calling them Ligularia, and believe me I've had to spell this out on more than one tour, botanists have now decided to change the name to Farfugium japonicum. Another synonym I've found on rare occasions is Senecio kaempferi, which at first glance makes sense due to the appearance of the flowers. But, we will trust that botanists know best and will begin to call these plants as Farfugium japonicum, at least until they are reclassified again. This separation may benefit those of us in the lower south since most Ligularia species are nearly impossible to grow in our climate. Horticulturists and their consumers tend to be a little resistant to change and you will still find Farfugium listed in many nurseries as Ligularia. I think this is one instance where I would defer to a common name if there were an appropriate one available. Maybe we should come up with a name of our own. Any suggestions? In 1856 Robert Fortune introduced Farfugium to England from China, but they are also native to Japan and Korea as well. In the wild they are found in moist, rich soils occurring at streamsides, wet meadows, and near seashores. Its appearance in the wild is an indication of damp soils. In the garden, Farfugium aren't too particular about soil, keeping in mind that the driest of conditions wouldn't be a good idea. Our first planting in the Arboretum is in a heavy clay soil with once-weekly irrigation. As we create new beds with a richer mix of compost and sand, the Farfugium here are outperforming the original plantings. Plants can be grown in full sun, but must have ample and consistent water to prevent heavy wilting of the leaves, and hindered development of new foliage. We have no experience with Farfugium in full sun at the arboretum, but will be adding a few to our sunny, aquatic stream this spring. Grown in shade, these plants are more tolerant of less aquatic conditions. In the wild, Farfugium can reach 5' tall with a leaf span of 2' or more. Selection over time has led to the more manageable-sized garden specimens we find in cultivation today. Their hardiness varies upon source, some listing hardiness only to Zone 8 while others list it as far north as Zone 6b. In our Zone 8, garden plants are evergreen, with only mild frost damage during late season hard freezes. Hardiness has not proven an issue for us. The flowers appearing in November and December are yellow, and daisy-like, but nothing to write home about. Most gardeners remove flower stalks and simply enjoy the interesting foliage. I tolerate the flowers for their seed, and in all actuality they are kind of charming. When a group of young Japanese students visited the Arboretum a few years ago, one of the few things they recognized was the Farfugium. Even with our limited ability to communicate, I knew this was a culinary delicacy for them. I've only found one source that even barely mentions Farfugium as a food product. Apparently the stems are boiled in water to remove the bitterness and then peeled and added to salads or soups. As a warning, every other source states that they are quite toxic and can cause severe liver damage due the presence of not one, but two alkaloids. Don't try this at home, kids! Farfugium are excellent groundcovers or accent plants for the shade. Plant this in place of a Hosta any day. Plants are not invasive and should be planted in groups and can be easily divided in early spring. Propagation by seed is relatively easy. Most seed, regardless of cultivar, will produce green foliage. So don't count on masses of the silvery variegated offspring; chances are you won't have any. We have a respectable collection in the Arboretum, and their descriptions follow: Species - This is the standard with healthy green, slightly serrated leaves about 8" wide. Clumps mature around 12" and 18" wide. `Argentea' ­ Broad bands of cream, silvery green and dark green set apart this cultivar from the rest. This is the most popular selection by our visitors. Plants are slooooow to mature, so have a little patience.

`Aureomaculata' ­ Bright yellow spots adorn huge, glossy leaves lending itself to the name Leopard Plant. Mature size is the same as the species. `Cristata' or `Crispata' ­ Fuzzy leaves are slightly undulating and heavily serrated. Stems stand a bit more erect than the species. This is one of the more talked about cultivars on tours through the Arboretum, and one of my favorites. `Gigantea' ­ Leaves are enormous, reaching well over a foot in diameter. The leaves are thick and leathery and so glossy you won't believe they are real! Plants are slightly taller and more open than the species. `Jitsuko's Star' ­ Plants are more compact overall, and the green leaves are slightly smaller than the species. This cultivar is named for its pretty, double flowers ­ a great improvement! `Kagami Jishi' ­ If you crossed `Aureomaculata' with `Cristata' this would be the result. Leaves are heavily crested and splashed with bright yellow spots. I have found this to be a little more dense than the species, about 10" x 12". `Ryuto' ­ This is not a cultivar for the mainstream. You have to be seriously addicted to Farfugium to want or appreciate this one. I've got. I like it. You can come visit. Leaves are leathery, heavily veined, gnarled, and produce little growths I fondly call warts. Told you. `Tsuwabaki' Reminiscent of lettuce or kale or curly parsley, or maybe all three together. Strongly serrated leaves crest and roll like turbulent surf. I'm rather partial to this cultivar as well. 12" x 12"

2004 Les Reeves Lecture Series

Usually held on the third Thursday of every month at 7:00 p.m. in Room 110 of the Agriculture Building located on Wilson Drive on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus. Free plant raffle following the lecture. The Les Reeves Lecture Series is made possible through the Les Reeves Memorial Fund. Sponsors include King's Nursery, Haden Edwards Inn, Llano Grande Plantation, and the SFA Mast Arboretum Volunteers. January 15: Greg Grant, Arcadia plantsman, "My Plants are the Laughing Stock: Humor in the Garden." February 19: Jill Nokes, landscape designer and authoress, Austin, TX, "Flor y Canto; Flower & Song; Xoxhitl en Cuicatl." March 25: Todd Laseigne, JC Raulston Arboretum, North Carolina, "Plants and PhDs: Do They Really Make Sense?" April 15: Brent Marable, Tree Introductions, Georgia, "You're Gonna Pay for a Clonal Oak Whether You Buy One or Not!" May 20: Jimmy Turner, Dallas Arboretum, "Behind the Scenes at Dallas Blooms." June 17: Keith Hansen, Tyler Extension Horticulturist, "The Idea Garden Comes of Age." July 15: George Hull, Mountain States Nursery, Phoenix, AZ, "Report From Hell: You Know, There Really Is a Point to Agaves in the Landscape." August 19: Aubrey King, King's Nursery, Teneha, TX, "Don't Tell Me to Get Out of My Rut--I Like It Here!" September 16: Dawn Parish, SFA Mast Arboretum, "Ginger and Spice and Other Things Nice." October 21: Ted Stephens, Nursery Caroliniana, South Carolina, "Wow! Have You Seen That Weeping, Contorted, Variegated, Red-Flowered Grancy Gray Beard Run By Here?" November 18: Jim Berry, PDSI, Alabama, "Tomorrow's Plants Today." December 16: Dave Creech, SFA Mast Arboretum, "End of the Year Review."

Date Correction! Mark your calendar! Garden Gala Day April 17, 2004 Fabulous Fall Festival October 2, 2004


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Microsoft Word - Ligularia.doc