What is Abeliophyllum?

Anna Harrison
Anna Harrison
Abeliophyllum is a member of the olive family.
Abeliophyllum is a member of the olive family.

Abeliophyllum is a genus of deciduous shrub that consists of just one species. Abeliophyllum distichum, or White Forsythia, lives only in Korea, where it is an endangered species and near extinction. These flowering plants are similar to the common yellow forsythia, growing just 3-6 feet (.9-1.8 m) tall and producing simple four petaled flowers in early spring on thin, multi-stemmed branches. The flowers appear before the foliage, making it a very ornamental plant in the spring landscape. Abeliophyllum is not a true forsythia; it is actually a member of the olive family.

Though it is endangered in the wild, Abeliophyllum is often grown in both American and English gardens. Hardy and easy to grow, this deciduous shrub lives in many different climates, but will not survive extreme cold. These garden plants love the sun, though in very warm areas Abeliophyllum does best when given some afternoon shade. It is tolerant of different soil types and will live in both wet and dry conditions.

This is not an easy plant to grow from seed, but it can be started successfully from cuttings. They should be several inches or centimeters long and have at least two or three leaves. The cut end can be dipped in root hormone powder to encourage rooting, though this is not mandatory. As long as the potting medium is kept moist, the cuttings will usually take root fairly quickly. As soon as roots have formed, the new plants can be placed in a outdoors in a cold frame, and can be planted in the ground as soon as the soil has warmed.

To promote growth and heavier blooming, these shrubs should be pruned back immediately after flowering in spring. Up to one third of the plant can be removed yearly, and it can be cut down to ground level every few years. This prevents them shrubs from becoming too straggly and tends to make them bushier and healthier.

This shrub should be planted where it can blend into the landscape after blooming because its foliage and overall shape are bland and lackluster. It blends well when planted alongside other spring flowering shrubs such as lilac, spirea, and quince. These have a more attractive shape and longer lasting flowers, allowing the foliage of Abeliophyllum to blend in with them and fade into the background.

While usually kept as an ornamental shrub, Abeliophyllum has been grown for its medicinal value for centuries in Korea. It is said to have astringent properties similar to that of witch hazel. For this reason, it is often harvested illegally and sold on the black market. This has greatly contributed to the endangerment of this plant in its native country.

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    • Abeliophyllum is a member of the olive family.
      Abeliophyllum is a member of the olive family.