Gold Dust Plant, Japanese Aucuba
Aucuba japonica Thunb. is the correct and accepted scientific name for this species of Aucuba. It was first described by Carl Peter Thunberg in Nova Genera Plantarum 3 in 1783.
According to the Plants of the World Online, there are 10 accepted species of Aucuba.
There were several of these in the backyard in Mississippi. They were growing around a HUGE old Oak tree that was almost surrounded by vines when I moved to the mansion in December 2008. As I began clearing away the vines I found more of this colorful Aucuba. I had never seen an Aucuba before so I didn’t know what it was at first. I didn’t pay much attention to them the whole time I lived at the mansion because I had a lot to do. I never pruned them back, I just let them do as they pleased. I liked their yellow and green foliage and they really brightened up that area.
According to Dave’s Garden, they are hardy in USDA Zones 6a to 10b. The Missouri Botanical Garden website says 7 to 9. SO, I could actually grow them here in Windsor… But you know what? You can also grow them inside… They don’t like a lot sun because it will burn their leaves. If you plant them under trees, that is fine until fall comes and the leaves fall off of the trees. Then the leaves on the Aucuba will burn. They are evergreen…
These plants are dioecious, which means there are both male and female plants. Cuttings can be taken, which easily root, but if you want fruit you have to take cuttings of both male and female plants. I never noticed if my fruited or not and I rarely saw any flowers. They are supposed to have red flowers and fruit, so I am darn sure I didn’t see that.
Common Names: Gold Dust Plant, Japanese Aucuba, Spotted Laurel
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Origin: Japan, Nansei-shoto, and Taiwan
Zones: USDA Zones 7-9
Size: 6-10’ x 5-9’
Light: Part to full shade
Soil: Prefers well-drained, organically rich soil
Water: Average water requirements
Propagation: Cuttings or seed. Need cuttings from both male and female plants if you want plants to pollinate to produce viable seed.
Uses: They make an attractive shrub outdoors or will even make nice houseplants in a cool area (50-65 degrees F) over the winter.
Concerns: Root rot in poorly-drained soil. Southern fungal blight and fungal leaf spot can be a problem. They can also be affected by nematodes, scale, and mealybugs. Plants kept indoors are prone to spider mites.
The Aucuba genus is a member of the Garryaceae family along with the genus Garrya. The family was established in 2010 for these two species because they differed from other genera in the Cornaceae family. They produce a berry rather than a drupe and lacked the involucres of petal-like bracts.
According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Aucuba japonica usually survives temperatures down to -5 degrees F. They say they may survive in USDA Zone 6 in sheltered areas. SO, maybe someday I will give them a shot here on the farm.
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