Ophiopogon planiscapus (lilyturf)
Lilyturf is a clump-forming perennial native to Japan, a dark-leaved cultivar of which is popular as an ornamental.
About this species
Despite its grass-like leaves, lilyturf is actually a member of the asparagus family (Asparagaceae). The specific epithet planiscapus means ‘flattened scape’ and refers to the flattened flower-stalk of this species.
The cultivar Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ (also known as black lilyturf, black grass or black mondo grass) has blackish leaves and is a popular ornamental. This small but striking plant is often grown against a contrasting light background such as gravel or silvery foliage.
Geography & Distribution
Ophiopogon planiscapus is native to central and southern Japan.
Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' (black lilyturf) with flower buds (Image: Réginald Hulhoven, GNU Free Documentation license)
Overview: An evergreen, clump-forming perennial with dense tufts of leaves growing from short rhizomes (underground stems).
Leaves: Grass-like, strap-shaped, deep green, 30–50 cm long and 4–6 mm wide.
Flowers: Small (6–7 mm long), nodding, bell-shaped, pale purple or white flowers are borne on 20–30 cm long, erect, flattened flower stalks (scapes) in summer.
Fruits: Round, fleshy, dull blue and 3–5 mm wide.
Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’: This cultivar has arching, blackish leaves, 20–30 cm long and small, purplish flowers followed by glossy, blackish fruits.
Kew’s Olympic floral spectacular
Olympic rings floral display in front of Kew's Orangery
From April to September 2012 a floral spectacular was in bloom in front of the Orangery at Kew Gardens to celebrate the London 2012 Olympic Games. This enormous representation of the Olympic rings could even be admired by air passengers flying over the Gardens.
The 50 m display included pelargoniums (Pelargonium ×hortorum ‘Horizon Red’), French marigolds (Tagetes patula ‘Atom Yellow’) and lobelias (Lobelia erinus ‘Cambridge Blue’). The black ring was created using black lilyturf (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) and the green ring was planted with apple mint (Mentha suaveolens).
The five interlaced rings designed in 1913 by the founder of the modern Olympic Games Baron Pierre de Coubertin represent the coming together of five continents to embrace the Olympic values: striving for excellence, demonstrating respect and celebrating friendship.
Lilyturf is a useful plant for providing ground cover and is also planted for erosion control.
The cultivar Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ is a popular ornamental that is grown for its dense tufts of blackish, grass-like leaves. The Royal Horticultural Society has given Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ its prestigious Award of Garden Merit.
This species at Kew
Pressed and dried specimens of Ophiopogon planiscapus are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment. The details of some other species of Ophiopogon, including some images, can be seen online in Kew’s Herbarium Catalogue.
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This species belongs to...
- newly discovered
- around the world
- of use
- ground breaking
- english garden
- garden plants
- english heritage
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