NOTES ON CHINESE MATERIA MEDICA FOR AMERICAN GARDENS
These notes summarize ten years’ experience with the cultivation of Chinese medicinal herbs at Mountain Gardens, a botanical garden of useful plants, located near Mt. Mitchell in Western North Carolina (USDA hardiness zone 6, elevation 3100’). Species listed are those included in the widely available Materia Medica of Bensky & Gamble.
Here are enough plant species to landscape a home or office, or (if there were time and world enough) to conduct a Chinese herbal medicine practice. Two major problems inhibiting the growing of Chinese herbs in this country are lack of sources of seeds or plants and lack of information on propagation and culture. ‘Planting material for most of the plants listed here is available from Mountain Gardens, where the plants may also be observed in a display garden. Information follows:
WARM, ACRID HERBS TO RELEASE THE EXTERIOR
Perilla frutescens leaf, zi su ye – “Shiso” Tender annual herb, upright, branching, 2-3’. Very easily grown and likely to reseed (harvest the seeds, zi su zi, to avoid weediness). The purple-leaf form is the one used medicinally (it’s also used as a food coloring and flavoring, e.g. umeboshi plums). Tolerant, preferring rich, moist soil, full sun.
Schizonepeta tenuifolia flowering herb, jing jie – Easily grown aromatic annual herb, narrowly upright to 2’, occasionally reseeds here. Prefers well-drained soil and sun.
Angelica dahurica root, bai zhi – Easily grown annual / biennial herb, spreading, upright, to 3’. Monocarpic: dies after flowering & seeding – the Chinese produce large roots of this and other Angelicas by preventing flowering (removing flower stalk). Angelica seeds germinate readily the spring after harvest (and will self-sow), but viability declines dramatically in older seeds. Prefers rich moist soil, sun or part shade.
Zingiber officinalis root, sheng jiang – Ginger is easily grown from pieces of fresh root (now available at many grocery stores). They take several weeks to emerge but then grow rapidly in warm, moist, rich soil. Not hardy – harvest at the end of summer, or dry off and allow to become dormant.
Allium fistulosum herb, cong bai- These are called “Japanese bunching onions” in American seed catalogs. Easy from seed sown in greenhouse in spring Perennial in warm areas, but rarely survive the winter here.
Elsholtzia ciliata herb, xiang ru – Attractive, easily grown annual herb, slender, upright 1-2’, self-sows here and would definitely take over my garden if I let it. Tolerant of soil, sun or part shade.
COOL, ACRID HERBS TO RELEASE THE EXTERIOR
Mentha arvensis herb, bo he – “Field mint” Easily grown perennial herb, 2-3’, spreading by roots. Mints prefer rich or moist soil, sun or part shade. Propagate by division – not true from seed.
Arctium lappa seed, niu bang zi – “Great burdock”- easily grown biennial herb, leaves to 18”, height 5-6’ (second year). First year roots are a Japanese / macrobiotic vegetable. Root is the medicinal part in Western herbalism (‘blood cleanser’). Grow from seed: self-sows here. Tolerant, prefers moist, well-drained soil, sun or part shade.
Morus alba leaf, sang ye – “Mulberry” – easily grown small (30-50’) deciduous tree, very tolerant and very useful.
Chrysanthemum morifolium flower, ju hua – Ornamental hardy perennial herb, 2’, easily propagated by division. This is the white-flowered variety, better for liver / kidney deficiency.
Chrysanthemum indicum flower, ye ju hua – Similar to above, but more vigorous (here), to 3’; yellow flowered variety – better for wind-heat problems. Chrysanthemums prefer rich, well-drained soil, full sun.
Equisetum hyemale herb, mu zei – “Horsetail” – perennial herb with slender unbranched stalks 1-3’, spreading by roots, prefers moist soil, sun or light shade. Likely to prove invasive. A biodynamic plant.
Pueraria lobata root, ge gen – Kudzu is a powerful twining zine from a large root, notoriously invasive in the southeastern U.S. Tolerates most soils, sun or shade. A plant of many uses.
Bupleurum chinense root, chai hu – Attractive, yellow-flowered perennial herb, slender, upright 2-3’, easy from seed and may self-sow; prefers moist, well-drained soil, sun.
CLEAR HEAT, DRAIN FIRE
Anemarrhena asphodelioides root, zhi mu – Perennial herb with grass-like foliage and slender upright stems, 2’. Sun or light shade. Easily propagated by division.
Lophatherum gracilis herb, dan zhu ye – Broad-leaved perennial grass, 1-3’, prefers shade. Easy from seed. Not hardy here.
Prunella vulgaris seedstalks, xia ku cao – “Heal-all” – Attractive perennial herb, 1-2’, a rather common weed in eastern U.S. Tolerant, prefers moist, well-drained soil, sun or part shade. Propagate by seed or division.
Phragmites communis rhizome, lu gen – The common reed is a grass-like plant to 10’ which grows by the acre in coastal marshes, and will flourish in any wet soil. Invasive, easily propagated by division. Has many uses.
Celosia argentea seed, qing xiang zi – Slender, upright annual herb to 3’, ornamental with silver-pink spikes. Easily grown from seed; a useful weed in the tropics.
Rehmannia glutinosa root, sheng di huang – Attractive perennial herb (“Chinese Foxglove”), 12”; prefers moist, well-drained sandy soil. Easy from seed; spreads by roots and may be divided. Not reliably hardy here.
Scrophularia ningpoensis, xuan shen – Perennial herb, 3-4’ for moist-wet soil in sun or light shade. Not difficult from seed. Has not been perennial here so far.
Paeonia suffruticosa root, mu dan pi – This is one of the “tree peonies”, an ornamental perennial shrub to about 4’. Easy to grow in fertile, well-drained soil, sun or light shade. Not easy to propagate.
Lithospermum erythrorhizon root, zi cao – Perennial herb 18-24” for well-drained soil, sun or part shade, not too acid. Not difficult from seed; perennial here.
Lycium chinensis bark, di gu pi – “Matrimony vine” – Arching / spreading deciduous shrub which has been difficult to establish here. My best specimens (now 4 years old, 4’ x 4’) are on top of walls (well-drained), sun or light shade. Prefers a dry, sandy soil and dry situation.
Gypsophilia oldhamiana root, yin chai hu – Perennial herb, 2’, succeeds here in average soil, sun or light shade. Not difficult from seed.
CLEAR HEAT, DRY DAMPNESS
Scutellaria baicalensis root, huang qin – Attractive perennial herb with sprawling stems, 18”, purple flowers. For well-drained soil in sun. Propagated by seed.
Phellodendron amurensis bark, huang bai – Ornamental small – medium (to 40’ x 40’) deciduous tree; tolerant of most soils, easily grown from seed.
Sophora flavescens root, ku shen – Attractive deciduous shrub, for well-drained soil and sun. Easily propagated from seed; seedlings are tender, perhaps established plants will be root hardy.
Fraxinus bungeana bark, qin pi – Small, hardy, deciduous tree (15’). Probably prefers moist soil and sun. May be grown from seed (stratify).
CLEAR HEAT, CLEAR POISONS
Lonicera japonica flowers, jin yin hua – “Honeysuckle” – perennial, twining or trailing, deciduous or evergreen vine with very fragrant white, turning gold, flowers. Easily grown, to say the least. (This has become a very common invasive and roadside weed in the southeastern U.S.)
Forsythia suspensa fruit, lian qiao – Arching deciduous shrub to about 10’, attractive (but not as showy in bloom as the common garden Forsythia). Easily grown; propagate by seed or layering.
Isatis tinctoria leaf, da qing ye – “Woad” – biennial herb to 3’ (second year), attractive yellow blooms. Easy from seed and often self-sows; for most soils, sun or light shade. (I. tinctoria is a secondary species for this herb)
Isatis tinctoria root, ban lan gen – as above.
Taraxacum mongholicum plant, pu gong yin – I keep getting this mixed up with the T. officinale
Viola yedoensis herb, zi hua di ding – Hardy perennial herb, 6”, for moist shady location. Propagate by seed or division.
Patrinia scabiosa villosa herb, bai jiang cao – Attractive easily grown perennial herbs for sun or light shade. P. scabiosa is upright, 4’, with yellow flowers. P. villosa spreading, 2’, white flowers.
Thlaspi arvensis herb, bai jiang cao (secondary species)- Widespread garden weed, winter annual, 1-2’, easily grown from seed and will self-sow in sunny areas. The disklike seedpods are eyecatching (‘pennycress’).
Houtynnia cordata herb, yu xing cao – Perennial herb, 12-18”, spreading by roots; somewhat invasive, especially in moist soil. Easily grown. A culinary herb in S and E Asian. A multicolored variety (red, yellow, & green) is sold as a groundcover under the name “Hot Tuna.”
Lygodium japonicum herb, jin sha teng – Herbaceous perennial climbing fern; attractive, but apparently a noxious invasive weed in some parts of the country (not here). Moist soil, part shade. Propagate by division.
Portulaca oleracea herb, ma chi zian – “Purslane” – cosmopolitan garden weed, annual, sprawling and mat-forming will self-sow in sunny garden areas. Edible and nutritious.
Dictamnus albus (dasycarpus) root, bai xian pi – “Gas plant” – long-lived, ornamental, hardy herbaceous perennial, 2-3’, for well-drained, neutral soil, sun. Sow seed in autumn for spring germination.
Scutellaria barbata herb, ban zhi lian – Hardy perennial herb, 12”, easily grown from seed. For moist, fertile seoil, sun or light shade.
Belamcanda chinensis root, she gan – “Blackberry lily” – attractive hardy perennial herb with iris-like leaves and small red/yellow flowers followed by ‘blackberry’ fruits. Propagate by seed or division. For damp, rich soil, part shade.
CLEAR HEAT, RELIEVE SUMMER HEAT
Phaseolus (Vigna) radiata seed, lu dou – “Mung bean” – Tender, upright, branching annual to 3’
Citrullus vulgaris fruit, xi gua – This is watermelon, the well-known tender, annual, long-running vine.
Dolichos lablab seed, bian dou – “Hyacinth bean” – Tender perennial twining vine to 30’, grown as annual in temperate areas. Attractive flowers. An important legume in tropical areas.
Artemisia annua herb, qing hao – “Sweet Annie” – hardy annual to 6’+ with aromatic, feathery foliage; prefers full sun, any good soil. Often self-sows and is weedy in much of E. U.S.
DOWNWARD DRAINING HERBS, PURGATIVES
Rheum palmatum tanguticum, da huang – Hardy perennial herb to 6’, ornamental with large leaves and panicles of red flowers. Prefers rich, moist, well-drained soil and full sun, but dislikes heat – thus difficult to site in E. U.S. May be grown from seed.
Aloe vera (barbadensis) or ferox herb, lu hui – Tender, perennial herb, a suckering rosette of fleshy, spiky leaves. Propagate by division, grow in a container (well-drained soil, sun).
DOWNWARD DRAINGING HERBS, MOIST LAXATIVES
Cannabis sativa seed, huo ma ren – Hardy annual herb to 6’+; easy, but not legal, to grow.
DOWNWARD DRAINING GERBS, HARSH EXPELLANTS (CATHARTICS)
Euphorbia pekinensis root, jing da ji – Hardy perennial herb, 3’, for well-drained soil, sun or light shade. Propagate by seed.
Phytolacca acinosa root, shang lu – Attractive hardy perennial herb, 4-5’, multi-stalked; similar to American pokeweed, but not weedy here so far (perhaps only because I usually harvest the seed). Easy from seed.
HERBS THAT DRAIN DAMPNESS
Coix lachryma-jobi seed, yi yi ren – “Job’s tears” – Attractive annual grass, 3’+, sometimes grown for ornament. Easy from seed, prefers moist soil and sun, may self-sow. Fruits are attractive beads.
Akebia quinata stem, mu tong – Hardy, deciduous, twining vine to 30’. Attractive foliage plant, but may be invasive if neglected. Propagate by seed or division of rooted suckers.
Dianthus superbus or chinesis herb, qu mai – These are showy and suitable for flower gardens: D. superbus is a hardy perennial, about 2’; D. chinensis is annual or short lived perennial, about 1’. Both are easy from seed and want well-drained soil and sun.
Kochia scoparia seed, di fu zi – Fine-leaved, bushy annual, 3-5’, sometimes grown as an ornamental for its red autumn color. Easy from seed and weedy in some parts of the U.S.
Polygonum aviculare herb, bian xu – Branching annual, 1’, a cosmopolitan dooryard weed, easily established from seed. Dry soil, sun.
Plantago asiatica seed, che qian zi – Plantain – easily grown perennial weed, difficult to distinguish from the local weedy species. Prefers paths / compacted soil.
Malva verticillata seed, dong kui zi – “China jute” – Annual to 5’ with large velvety leaves, easy from seed and may self-sow; for most soils, sun. A fiber plant.
Dioscorea tokoro root, bei xie – Twining herbaceous vine, 20’, Propagated by seed. For well-drained soil, light shade.
Artemisia capillaris herb, yin chen hao – Perennial herb to 3’, feathery foliage. Average soil and sun. Grow from seed.
Zea mays silk, yu mi xu – This is the silk from ears of corn. Tender annual easy from seed.
HERBS THAT DISPEL WIND-DAMPNESS
Angelica pubescens root, du huo (secondary species) – Ornamental hardy annual / biennial to 10’, for rich, moist, well-drained soil, light shade. Easy from recent seed and often self-sows (old seed loses viability)
Clematis chinensis or hexapetala root, wei ling xian – Both species are hardy so far. Twining vines; I don’t yet know how vigorous.
Chaenomeles lagenaria or sinensis fruit, mu gua – Ornamental deciduous shrub, to 6’, with many spiny, branching stems. Tolerates variety of soils, sun or light shade. Propagate by cuttings or seed (stratify).
Morus alba twig, sang zhi –
Acanthopanax gracilistylus root bark, wu jia pi – Hardy deciduous shrub, 6’. Succeeds in average garden soil, light shade. Seed requires stratification (unless fresh).
Siegesbeckia orientalis herb, xi xian cao – At Mountain Gardens, this is an annual herb to about 30”, which self-sows in average garden soil, sun or light shade.
Clerodendron trichotomum leaf, chou wu – An attractive deciduous shrub, 10-20’, with fragrant white flowers and showy blue fruit. This shrub is usually killed to the ground in winter here, then sprouts back from the roots over a wide area – quite invasive here, perhaps it would be less invasive if not winter killed.
HERBS THAT TRANSFORM PHLEGM & STOP COUGH: COOL & TRANSFORM HOT PHLEGM
Trichosanthes kirilowii root, tian hua fen – Hardy perennial herbaceous vine, squash family, high-climbing by means of tendrils. Dioecious – plants are male or female. Attractive frilly flowers, but has never set fruit here.
Euphorbia helioscopia herb, ze qi – “Sun spurge” – Hardy annual or biennial weed, 6-12”; will self-sow in sunny locations.
HERBS THAT TRANSFORM PHLEGM & STOP COUGH: WARM & TRANSFORM COLD PHLEGM
Pinellia ternata root, ban xia – Perennial herb, resembling jack-in-the-pulpit, to 2’ from a tuber. For rich moist soil, part shade. Invasive (by bulblets) in some areas but has proved difficult to establish here – borderline hardy?
Typhonium giganteum root, bai fu zi – Perennial herb from tuberous root, large ‘elephant ear’ leaves, 2’+. An exotic-looking aroid, but has proved hardy here for the past five years. Moist, well-drained soil and light shade. Propagate by seed or tuber offsets. Emerges late in spring.
Brassica (Sinapis) alba (hirta) seed, bai jie zi – “White mustard” – Annual herb to 3’, grow from seed in average garden soil and sun. Seeds and leaves edible.
Platycodon grandiflorum root, jie geng – “Balloon flower” – Ornamental hardy perennial herb, 1-2’, suitable for flower garden. Easy from seed, tolerant. Roots also edible.
HERBS THAT TRANSFORM PHLEGM & STOP COUGH: RELIEVE COUGHING & WHEEZING
Aster tataricus root, zi wan – Robust hardy perennial herb to 6’+. Attractive, colonial, invasive; for any good soil, sun or part shade; propagate by seed or division.
Tussilage farfara flowerbuds, kuan dong hua – “Coltsfoot” – Hardy herbaceous perennial herb, 12”, of moist, disturbed soil and sun. Colonial; propagate by division or fresh seed.
Perilla frutescens seed (‘fruit’), su zi –
Stemona japonica root, bai bu – Hardy perennial climbing herb. I have been growing this for several years, in shade; the stems are about 5’ (require support)
Morus alba rootbark, sang bai pi –
AROMATIC HERBS THAT TRANSFORM DAMPNESS
Agastache rugosa herb, huo xiang – Robust, attractive, hardy perennial herb, 4’. Easy from seed. Rich, moist soil, sun or part shade.
Eupatorium fortunei herb, pei lan – Hardy perennial herb to 3’; prefers moist soil, sun or part shade. May be grown from seed.
HERBS THAT RELIEVE FOOD STAGNATION
Hordeum vulgare sprouted seed, mai ya – This is barley, an easily grown grain. Plant seed autumn or early spring; average garden soil, full sun.
Raphanus sativus seed, lai fu zi – This is radish, a very easily grown cool-weather garden vegetable.
HERBS THAT REGULATE THE QI
Poncirus trifoliata fruit, zhi ke, zhi shi – “Trifoliate orange” – The hardiest of all citrus, a small thorny tree to 20’ with attractive glossy foliage and 1” yellow fruit. Succeeds here in sheltered location. Easy from seed.
Cyperus rotundus rhizome, xiang fu – Grass-like perennial herb, 6-12”; easy to grown, hard to get rid of. Moist soil, sun.
Rosa rugosa flowerbuds, mei gui hua – Ornamental deciduous shrub to 6’, densely prickly, spreading by roots. Full sun, tolerates dry, sandy soil, does well near coast. Source of large rose hips.
HERBS THAT REGULATE THE BLOOD AND STOP BLEEDING
Agrimonia pilosa herb, xian he cao – Attractive hardy perennial herb with yellow flowers and dissected foliage, 1-2’. For well-drained soil, sun or light shade; easy from seed and often self-sows.
Cirsium japonicum root, da ji – Attractive hardy perennial herb, 2-3’, for well-drained to dry soil and sun. Propagate by seed.
Sanguisorba officinalis root, di yu – Attractive hardy perennial herb to 3’, for moist, well-drained soil in sun.
Artemisia argyi or vulgaris leaf, ai ye – “Mugwort” – Hardy perennial herbs, 2-3’. Extremely invasive by roots, difficult to eradicate. For most soils, sun or light shade; propagate by division or seed. This is moxa.
HERBS THAT REGULATE AND INVIGORATE THE BLOOD
Salvia miltiorrhiza root, dan shen – Dan shen is any one of several Chinese species of sage (Salvia) with red roots. I have had the most success with Salvia przewalskii gansu dan shen (secondary sp.), an attractive hardy perennial to 2’, easy from seed, succeeding in rich, moist, well-drained soil and light shade.
Corydalis yanhusuo root, yan hu suo – This is a rather flimsy and ephemeral hardy perennial herb to about 8”. It commences growth way too early in the spring and regularly gets frozen before ripening seed in this area. Another species, Corydalis solida, also a source of yan hu suo, is an attractive small spring flower sometimes offered in bulb catalogs.
Leonurus heterophyllus herb, yi mu cao – “Chinese motherwort” – Hardy annual, 3-4’; easy from seed and will self-sow in most soils, sun or light shade. L. sibirica is similar but taller, usually biennial.
Lycopus lucidus herb, ze lan – Hardy perennial herb, 2-3’, spreading by roots and somewhat invasive. For moist to wet soil and part shade. Propagate by seed or division.
Rosa chinensis flower & fruit, yue ji hua – A rosebud with small leaves and flowers, supposedly a parent of miniature roses, but my plants are about 4’. Prickly. Good soil and sun. Propagate by seed (takes a year).
HERBS THAT WARM THE INTERIOR AND EXPEL COLD
Aconitum carmichaeli (wilsonii) root, fu zi – Ornamental hardy perennial herb, 3’. Poisonous. Grow from seed, or may be divided (wash your hands). Requires moist soil, part shade or sun.
Zingiber officinalis root, gan jiang –
Foeniculum vulgaris seed (‘fruit’), xiao hui xiang – “Fennel” – Attractive, hardy, biennial to perennial herb, to 6’, with feathery aromatic leaves. Well-drained garden soil in sun, easy from seed.
HERBS THAT TONIFY THE QI
Panax ginseng root, ren shen – Hardy perennial herb, 6-24”, similar in appearance, culture and propagation to American ginseng, but supposedly preferring a leaner (less humus-rich) soil.
Codonopsis pilosula root, dang shen – Hardy perennial twining vine to about 10’. Prefers rich, moist, well-drained soil and light shade; easy from seed and may self-sow. Protect seedlings from strong sun.
Pseudostellaria heterophylla root, tai zi shen – Hardy perennial herb, 6-10”, not difficult from seed. Prefers partial shade (woods edge) and pockets of shallow soil over rock. Emerges early and often spoiled by late frosts, but has produced some self-sown seedlings here.
Astragalus membranaceus root, huang qi – Hardy perennial herb to 4’+, multi-stalked. For well-drained to dry, lean, slightly alkaline soil and sun. Easy from seed.
Dioscorea batatas or opposita root, shan yao – Hardy twining herbaceous vine to 30’, easily propagated from bulbils (‘air potatoes’) produced along the stem, likely to become weedy. Succeeds in any good soil, sun or light shade.
Zizyphus jujuba fruit, da zao – “Jujube” – Hardy small deciduous tree (to 30’). Tolerates a wide variety of conditions, but fruits best in a hot, dry climate (not a good candidate for WNC). Propagate by root suckers.
Glycyrrhiza uralensis root, gan cao – “Chinese licorice” – Hardy perennial herb, 1-3’. Easy from seed (hot water soak)- I have grown hundreds of seedlings but not established any. Wants an alkaline and mineral soil, well-drained, and sun.
HERBS THAT TONIFY THE BLOOD
Polygonum multiflorum root, he shou wu – “Fo ti” – Perennial twining vine to 20’+, invasive by runners over and under the ground. Tolerant, prefers rich, moist, well-drained soil, sun or light shade. Propagate by division, cuttings, or seed (plants have not produced seed, which is probably a blessing).
Angelica sinensis ropot, dang gui – Hardy biennial herb, 2’. Prefers a cool, moist climate and rich, moist, well-drained soil and sun, but does better here in light shade. Fresh seed germinates readily, old seed has poor, erratic germination. Plants may be grown for several years by preventing flowering.
Paeonia lactiflora root, bai shao – “Peony” – Ornamental hardy perennial herb, 2-3’. Prefers deep, rich, moist, well-drained soil and sun or light shade. Very long-lived. Propagate by division, in autumn.
Lycium chinense fruit, gou qi zi – Hardy deciduous shrub with multiple arching stems, to 10’ x 10’. Prefers moist well-drained to sandy, slightly alkaline soil and sun. Propagate by seed or cuttings.
Morus alba fruit, sang shen –
HERBS THAT TONIFY THE YANG
Eucommia ulmoides bark, du zhong – “Hardy rubber tree” – Attractive hardy deciduous tree to about 50’ x 50’. For most soils, full sun. Propagate by summer cuttings, or seed.
Psoralea corylifolia seed, bu gu zhi – An annual legume, easy from seed and grows well in average soil and sun, but flowers too late to produce seed here.
Dipsacus asper or japonicus root, xu duan – Hardy biennial herbs, columnar, unbranched, to 6’. Succeeds in average garden soil, sun or light shade. Easy from seed, self-sows.
Astragalus complanatus, chinensis or adsurgens seed, sha yuan zi – Hardy perennial herbs, multi-stalked, to 5’. For well-drained soil and sun. Propagate by seed.
Allium tuberosum seed, jiu zi – Attractive hardy perennial, 18”, easy in good garden soil and sun. Propagate by seed (may self-sow) or division. The leaves are a culinary herb, “garlic chives.”
HERBS THAT TONIFY THE YIN
Adenophera tetraphylla or stricta root, nan sha shen – A new acquisition for me- I expect it will be a hardy perennial herb, 2’+. Easy from seed. I’m trying it in part-shade, moist, well-drained soil.
Panax quinquefolius root, xi yang shen – “American ginseng” – Hardy perennial herb 6-18”, for rich, moist, well-drained soil and deciduous shade. Grow from seed, which requires 18 mos. (cold-warm-cold)
Asparagus cochinchinensis root, tian men dong – Perennial herb, apparently hardy here. The stems, to 5’, are lax and want support. For rich, moist, well-drained soil and sun. Propagate by seed.
Ophiopogon japonicus root, mai men dong – “Lily turf” – Hardy perennial herb with grass-like foliage, 6”. Succeeds in moist, well-drained soil and light shade. Propagate by division. Often used as a groundcover.
Eclipta prostrata herb, han lian cao – Tender spreading annual, height about 12”, preferring moist to wet soil and sun, will self-sow. Easy from seed.
Ligustrum lucidum seed, nu zhen zi – “Shining privet” – Evergreen shrub or small tree, 30’+, with attractive glossy foliage. Borderline hardy here. Well-drained soil in sun or light shade. Seed germinates readily – has become weedy in warmer areas.
HERBS THAT STABILIZE AND BIND
Cornus officinalis fruit, shan zhu yu – Attractive small hardy deciduous tree, preferring rich moist soil, sun or light shade. Easy from seed. Fruits well in central NC, but erratic spring weather makes it unlikely that it will ever produce fruit here at Mountain Gardens.
Schisanda chinensis fruit, wu wei zi – Attractive woody vine, twining to 25’. Dioecious – male and female plants required for fruit production. Rich, moist, well-drained soil in sun or part shade. Propagate by seed, division or layering.
Papaver somniferum capsule, ying su ke – “Opium poppy” – Ornamental winter annual, 1’ – 3’+, easy from seed and often self-sows in good garden soil and sun. Source of edible poppy seeds. Not absolutely illegal to grow, but problematic.
Ailanthus altissimus bark, chun pi – “Tree of heaven” – Extremely adaptable and pollution tolerant (deserves respect but doesn’t get it), hardy deciduous tree to about 50’. Propagate by seed or root cuttings.
Rosa laevigata fruit, jin ying zi – “Cherokee rose” is a misnomer for this Asian species. Not hardy here.
Ginkgo biloba seed, bai guo – Attractive, large, hardy deciduous tree. Leaves are important in contemporary western herbalism. Tolerates most soils, full sun. Plant cleaned seed in autumn for spring germination.
Triticum aestivum seed, fu xiao mai – These are grains of wheat which float; that is, husks in which the seed did not develop fully.
HERBS THAT NOURISH THE HEART AND CALM THE SPIRIT
Zizyphus spinosa seed, suan zao ren – Hardy, deciduous, thorny small tree or shrub. No information available (in English) – my plant is a miniature (4’) tree, after 5 years in full sun, well-drained soil.
Biota (Platycladus, Thuja) orientalis seed, bai zi ren – “Arborvitae” – This is a small evergreen tree (to 25’), tolerant of most conditions if not very wet or very dry, full sun. Easy from seed.
Albizzia julibrissin bark, (flowers), he huan pi, (hua) – “Mimosa” – Attractive small tree, spreading and often multi-trunked, to 30’ x 30’. Prefers full sun, tolerates any soil – a weed tree in SE U.S.
Polygonum multiflorum stem, ye jiao teng (shou wu teng) –
HERBS THAT EXTINGUISH WIND AND STOP TREMORS
Melia azedarach bark, ku lian gen pi – “Chinaberry” – Interesting small deciduous tree, 30-40’. A weed tree in the south, but not hardy here.
Carpesium abrotanoides or Daucus carota seed (‘fruit’), he shi –
Cucurbita moschata seed, nan gua zi –
Allium sativum root, da suan – “Garlic” – Familiar bulbous vegetable. Plant cloves in early autumn for harvest the following summer. Rich, moist, well-drained soil, full sun.
HERBS FOR EXTERNAL APPLICATION
Cnidium monnieri, she chuang zi – Attractive white-flowered umbillifer, an annual or biennial herb, 1-2’. Prefers (?) moist soil, light shade; easy from seed.
Thanks to Robert Newman for invaluable assistance in obtaining many of these plants and revising these notes.