Aucuba is a genus of three to ten species of flowering plants, now placed in the family Garryaceae, although formerly classed in the Aucubaceae or Cornaceae.

Aucuba species are native to eastern Asia, from the eastern Himalaya east to Japan. 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 sometimes mistakenly called laurels.

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. The flowers are small, 4-8 mm diameter, with four purplish-brown petals; they are produced in clusters of 10-30 in a loose cyme. The fruit is a red berry 1 cm diameter.Species Three species (A. chinensis, A. himalaica, A. japonica) have traditionally been accepted, but the recent Flora of China accepts ten species:

  • 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.

Cultivation and uses

A. japonica is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant by gardeners, and there are a number of cultivars available from garden centres. The most popular cultivar is 'Variegata', with yellow spots on the leaves; this is a female clone, a similar male clone is named 'Maculata'. It is often referred to as 'Japanese laurel', and 'spotted laurel', and is valued for its colourful evergreen foliage, and large bright red berries


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