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Common Name: Lily Of The Valley Bush
Pieris japonica is an evergreen shrub that can grow up to 4.00 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a source of materials.
The plant is poisonous[
All parts of the plant (including the leaves, flowers and pollen) contain greater or lesser amounts of the toxic compound andromedotoxin (also known as grayanotoxin) [
]. Rarely lethal to humans (and used medicinally in some herbal disciplines), this compound causes dose-dependant overstimulation of the central nervous system with symptoms including various cardiovascular effects (mainly low blood pressure and cardiac rhythm disorders); nausea and vomiting; and a change in consciousness. The effects commence shortly after ingestion and last around two days. These effects are also transferred to honey made from the nectar of the flowers. In some parts of the world bees are used to deliberately produce a honey rich in andromedotoxin which is then eaten for its supposed medicinal, hallucinogenic and aphrodisiac effects.
In contrast to humans, many other creatures are more susceptible to the toxin and it has sometimes proved lethal to grazing animals and household pets. Some forms of honeybees are also killed by the toxin (resistant forms of the bee are used for honey production). Bumblebees are not affected, however, and are also more efficient in pollinating rhododendron flowers, so one theory is that the toxin is produced by the plant in order to favour the bumblebee and improve fertilization rates[
E. Asia - E. China, Japan.
Open forests in mountains[
]. Thickets at elevations of 800 - 1200, occasionally to 1900 metres[
Easily grown in a moist acid peaty soil but it requires a sheltered position because the young growth is easily damaged by frost[
]. Plants grow best with a western exposure so that they are protected from morning frosts[
]. They flower more freely when grown in a sunny position[
]. Best grown in shade or semi-shade[
], they grow well in a woodland garden[
Dormant plants are hardy to about -20°c[
A very ornamental plant, there are many named varieties[
]. The flowers are delicately scented[
A slow growing plant[
Plants sometimes succumb to an incurable fungal infection[
]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[
The plant is used as a pesticide and a parasiticide[
Seed - surface sow in the spring on a fine moss peat. Keep the compost moist and place the pot in a shaded part of the greenhouse[
]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a shady part of the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.
Cuttings of short side branches with a heel, mid summer to early autumn in a frame[