The Aralia Family

Japanese Fatsia Japanese Fatsia Chinese Angelica-tree Japanese Fatsia

What are they?

This is a remarkably varied family of plants with a large number of species found in the tropical regions of the world. Members of the Araliaceae vary from evergreen trees, through herbaceous plants to tiny, creeping plants of wetlands, but tend to be typified by their small, five-parted flowers that are carried in many-branched umbels. In this last respect, they often resemble members of the carrot family (Apiaceae) but mostly differ in that the flowers are followed by berries rather than dry seeds. The pennyworts are currently placed in this family but seem to form a link between the Araliaceae and the Apiaceae.

Other members of this family include the pennyworts and the ivies.

Where are they found?

The members of the Araliaceae that are covered on this page are species that were introduced as garden ornamentals. As such, they are most likely to be seen in amenity plantings, churchyards or places were garden plants have been dumped or planted out in the wider countryside. However, they are only rarely found away from gardens.

Identification

The species covered here a relatively easy to identify based on the overall appearance of their flowers and leaves. However, care should be taken with the angelica-trees since there are other species in cultivation that might turn up and details of the shape of flower spike and the hairiness of the leaves can then be important.



Japanese Fatsia      Fatsia japonica

Introduced from Eastern Asia as a garden ornamental and widely planted as an amenity shrub. Not fully frost-hardy but sometimes survives for a time where planted out or disposed of near the coast. Flowers October to December. An evergreen shrub to 5m in height but often much less. The thick, leathery, evergreen leaves are distinctive and rather like those of the Castor-oil-plant (Ricinus communis), with which it is often confused, but the flowers and fruits are very different.

Japanese Fatsia Japanese Fatsia Japanese Fatsia Japanese Fatsia
Habit
Leaves
Leaf
Flowers
Japanese Fatsia Japanese Fatsia Japanese Fatsia
Flowers
Fruit
Fruit


Chinese Angelica-tree      Aralia chinensis

Introduced from Eastern Asia as a garden ornamental. Not often recorded in the wider countryside in the UK, but it has survived for many years on rough ground beside the railway line at Beeston Regis, Norfolk. Flowers August to October. A deciduous shrub to 5m in height which often sends up suckers to produce colonies of chunky, slightly fleshy stems. Leaves are twice-pinnate and grow up to 80cm in length. They have spines on their midribs and are slightly hairy on the veins. The tiny flowers grow on spreading, many-branched flowerheads.

Chinese Angelica-tree Chinese Angelica-tree Chinese Angelica-tree Chinese Angelica-tree
Habit
Leaf
Leaf spines
Leaf underside
Chinese Angelica-tree Chinese Angelica-tree Chinese Angelica-tree Chinese Angelica-tree
Flowers
Flowers
Fruit
Winter stem