Skimmia seems to be everywhere. It’s easy to see why when you look at the three examples below photographed on a drab, wet winter’s day. Skimmia is a compact, low maintenance shrub that is a popular choice in gardens for winter interest. It is also commonly seen in parks. It seems to be a common choice in landscaping on all the new housing estates that are springing up everywhere too.
Skimmia is not just a winter plant. Its leaves are evergreen. The leathery, aromatic leaves are a feature of its place in the Rutaceae or Citrus plant family. Flower buds are present in November. The flowers open in April and May, attracting bees. Then, a new cycle of buds starts to appear in August. There are separate male and female plants that therefore need to be planted near each other, as well as a limited number of self-fertile shrubs. The female berries can last on the shrub through 3 seasons (summer, autumn and winter).
Name and Plant Origin
The berries on female plants give the shrub its genus name. Skimmia is a Latinisation of the Japanese shikimi or ashiki-mi. It means bad, poisonous or harmful fruit. The epithet japonica denotes the plant’s Japanese origin. Kew’s Plants of the World Online gives Skimmia’s native distribution as South Central & South Japan and Taiwan.
Arrival in Europe
Skimmia arrived in Europe in 1838. It was first described in 1784 by the Swedish botanist Carl Thunberg (1743-1828). He was a student of Linnaeus who actually travelled to Japan himself between 1775 and 1776. He wrote a Flora of Japan about all the plants that he collected, which includes his description of Skimmia. Skimmia seems to have been planted everywhere in our parks and gardens since that time.
References and Further Reading
- Flower Council Holland (2018): Garden Plant of the Month November: Skimmia. November 2018
- Kew Science (2021): Skimmia japonica Thunb. Plants of the World Online.
- Quattrocchi, Umberto (2000): CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names. Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology. Volume IV R-Z. CRC Press LLC. Florida, U.S.A. (p. 2495)
- RHS (2021): Skimmia japonica/Japanese Skimmia. RHS Gardening.
Karen does not seek or receive any commercial interest or advantage from this blog. She is not promoting any business venture. She simply loves to share fascinating facts about plants. These pages illustrate her love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. This blog is designed as a showcase for photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics. Viewpoints are her own, not those of her employer.
All above photos © Karen Andrews