Fatsia

Fatsia

[fat-see-uh]

Fatsia is a small genus of three species of evergreen shrubs native to southern Japan and Taiwan. They have stout, sparsely branched stems bearing spirally-arranged, large leathery, palmately lobed leaves 20-50 cm in width, on a petiole up to 50 cm long, and small creamy-white flowers in dense terminal compound umbels in late autumn or early winter, followed by small black fruit.

Fatsia japonica, known as Fatsi or Japanese Aralia (also occasionally as glossy-leaved paper plant, false castor oil plant, fig-leaf palm), is a shrub growing to 3-6 m tall. The leaves have 7-9 broad lobes, divided to half or two-thirds of the way to the base of the leaf; the lobes are edged with coarse, blunt teeth. It is native to southern Japan. The name "Fatsi" is older Japanese, meaning 'eight' (in present-day Japanese hachi), referring to the eight lobes. The name "Japanese Aralia" is due to the genus formerly being classified within a broader interpretation of the related genus Aralia in the past (synonyms include Aralia japonica and Aralia sieboldii). It is a popular garden shrub in areas where winters do not fall below about -15°C.

Fatsia oligocarpella, from the Bonin Islands, differs in the lobes on the leaves being less coarsely toothed, but is otherwise very similar. It is naturalised in Hawaii.

Fatsia polycarpa is native to Taiwan. The leaves have 9-13 deep, narrow lobes, divided nearly to the base of the leaf. Some authors treat it in a separate genus, as Diplofatsia polycarpa.

A sterile hybrid between Fatsia japonica and Hedera hibernica, named × Fatshedera lizei, has been produced in cultivation in western Europe.

Some species formerly included in Fatsia are now classified in other genera. Fatsia papyrifera is now Tetrapanax papyrifer and Fatsia horrida is now Oplopanax horridus.

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