Japanese ardisia (Ardisia japonica), also called marlberry, is an evergreen groundcover introduced from Japan and China. It is a low-growing, woody shrub that typically grows to a height of 8 to 12 inches. It spreads slowly by rhizomes at the rate of about 6 inches per year to approximately 3 feet wide. As it spreads, it makes a dense mat of foliage.
Mature foliage is dark green, but new growth in the spring may be light green, copper or bronze. Leaves are thick, glossy, leathery, and the margins are finely serrate.
Small, pale-pink flowers are formed in racemes beneath the new season s foliage. These flowers are about -inch long, star-shaped and in small groups. Buds first appear in June, and flowers are present during July and August.
The fruit are inch, bright red drupes, quite similar to miniature cherries in shape. A drupe is a fruit with a fleshy outer portion which surrounds a hardened pit or stone containing the seed. The fruit appear in September and are nestled among the foliage. They mature by October or November and persist throughout the winter.
This plant is one of the 50 fundamental herbs in Chinese medicine. It is used for a large number of different medical applications including treatment of bronchitis. The leaves are used in the treatment of cancer and hepatoma.
Japanese ardisia grows best in moist, but well-drained, acidic soil, and in partial to full shade. Excess afternoon sun may cause foliar burn.
Young plants need extra phosphorus to encourage good root development
Ornamental plant for landscaping. Marlberry can be grown as a trimmed hedge.