Eleutherococcus pentaphyllus ‘Variegatus’

Five leafed Aralia or Siberian ginseng
Also called Acanthopanax sieboldianus and Aralia pentaphylla
ARALIACEAE, The Aralia family

Eleutherococcus pentaphyllus ‘Variegatus’ is a new arrival in the nursery. Its indistinctive common names have already caused some confusion. I put it on a client’s plant list as ‘Variegated Five-leaf Aralia’ because I couldn’t remember off-hand the spelling of either of its botanical names. The client came in to shop for it when I wasn’t at work, and the manager must have interpreted the name to mean Fatsia ‘Variegata’ or ‘Spider Web’, (common name Japanese Aralia,) because he told her it was a rare shade plant that we didn’t ever have. There were actually five of the plant I meant sitting in the main aisle, but I cleared it up when she came in next.

The Aralia family is diverse in that the leaf shape of its members can be bold and palmate, or very compound. Reproductive structures are the most reliable visual clue to kinship. Only DNA testing is more accurate. You can’t compare leaf shapes or margins (OR COLOR! Someone asked me if this was related to Aegopodium podagraria,) to determine relationships. Hold up a leaf each of Juglans nigra Black Walnut, Ailanthus altissima Tree of Heaven, and Aralia elata Japanese Angelica Tree. These trees are in separate families: Juglandaceae, Simaroubaceae, and Araliaceae. They are in separate orders: Juglandales, Sapindales, Apiales. All are in the same class, Magnoliopsida, though Ailanthus and Aralia are in the subclass Rosidae, and Juglans in subclass Hamamelidae. That is to say they are not closely related. But all three leaves are large, deciduous, medium green and compoundly arranged on a rachis.

This member of the Aralia family has palmately compound leaves that are variegated green and cream. Its habit is upright, and it is fast growing and amenable to pruning, making it suitable for a hedge. The stems have small thorns. It is also tolerant of shade or sun, and a wide range of moisture conditions.

About Mulysa

I love my work as a landscape designer and artist. When I'm not planning homesteads or working in the studio, you'll find me hiking, photographing, gardening, baking, cooking vegetarian meals with friends, reading and working on sustainability issues...with my baby on my hip in Portland, Oregon.
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