Ilex brachypoda S.Y.Hu
Ilex ellipsoidea Okamoto
Ilex othera Spreng.
Othera japonica Thunb.
Prinos integer (Thunb.) Hook. & Arn.
Common Name: Mochi Tree
Ilex integra is an evergreen tree that can grow up to 6 metres tall.
The plant is possibly harvested from the wild for local use as a food, and also has potential medicinal uses. It is often grown as an ornamental.
Although no specific reports of toxicity have been seen for this species, Ilex species in general contain several potentially toxic compounds, particularly saponins, glycosides and triterpenoids. These compounds also often have a range of potential health benefits[
The berries are usually the part of the plant most likely to be toxic, though the degree of toxicity is usually low. Their bitter flavour usually prevents a person eating more than one or two, but even a small handful of the fruit eaten by a healthy adult is unlikely to cause more than feelings of nausea that can lead on to vomiting and diarrhoea[
The compounds in the leaves are particularly interesting. The leaves of many Ilex species around the world are commonly used to make health-promoting teas that, when drunk on a regular basis, help to regulate bodily functions and can reduce the risk of heart disease, lower blood-cholesterol levels etc (See Ilex paraguariensis or Ilex kaushue for examples)[
]. Even these teas, however, if taken in very concentrated doses, can act as a laxative or cause vomiting. Indeed, several species are used by traditional peoples to induce vomiting as a means of purifying the body (see Ilex guayusa or Ilex vomitoria for examples)
E. Asia - eastern China, central and southern Japan, Korea.
Thickets and woods in hills and low mountains, often near the sea, in C. and S. Japan[
Somewhat tender for its first two or three years from seed[
], this species is hardy to about -10°c[
] when it gets older.
Ilex species generally tolerate most soils that are not water-logged[
Resents root disturbance, especially as the plant grows older[
]. It is best to place the plants into their permanent positions as soon as possible, perhaps giving some winter protection for their first year or two[
Plants are very tolerant of pruning and can be cut right back into old wood if required[
A dioecious species - both male and female forms must be grown if fruit and seed are required.
Young leaves - cooked. A famine food, it is only used when all else fails[
We have seen no specific reports of the leaves being used medicinally, but they have been shown to have a broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity including against bacteria, yeasts, and filamentous fungi[
An extract of the leaves is used as an ingredient in commercial cosmetic preparations as a skin conditioner[
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. It can take 18 months to germinate. Stored seed generally requires two winters and a summer before it will germinate and should be sown as soon as possible in a cold frame. Scarification, followed by a warm stratification and then a cold stratification may speed up the germination time[
]. The seedlings are rather slow-growing. Pot them up into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame for their first year. It is possible to plant them out into a nursery bed in late spring of the following year, but they should not be left here for more than two years since they do not like being transplanted. Alternatively, grow them on in their pots for a second season and then plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. Give them a good mulch and some protection for their first winter outdoors.
Cuttings of almost ripe wood with a heel, August in a shaded position in a cold frame. Leave for 12 months before potting up.
Layering in early autumn. Takes 2 years.