This picture of Mitsumata (ミツマタ Japanese) or Edgeworthia chrysantha was taken at Hasedera (tera/dera means Temple) in Kamakura. Mitsumata means a three-thronged fork and this shrubs have three-thronged branches. It is a member of the Thymelaeaceae, the family that includes the daphnes, you can spot the resemblance to daphne genkwa. See photos of fully opened flowers below.
See red version here. The flowers smell like clove and the bark are cinnamon-coloured.
The bark from Mitsumata has been used for centuries in Japan to make the finest grades of paper, including that used in Japanese bank notes. Mitsumata tree fiber used to be an important raw material for paper making. Ancient documents were written on the paper made out of Mitsumata and paper mulberry, which is far better in quality than today’s. Jochiji, Sugimoto-dera, Kosokuji at Hasedera, Myohoji.
Mitsumata branches have a unique angular form. These branches have been stripped of their bark and bleached to an ivory white. The matte finish is more natural looking than branches that have been painted. Source Nettleton Hollow.
Another unique characteristic of Mitsumata branches is that after a few hours of soaking they can be easily shaped.
The genus comprises three very similar species from China and Japan. It is named after Michael Pakenham Edgeworth (1812-81), a part-time botanist, plant collector and employee of the East India Company.
The plant grown in our gardens and sold in garden centres commonly labelled E. papyrifera, which is actually a different species. There is some confusion over this, even among botanists. Apparently E. papyrifera has white flowers, not the yellow of E. chrysantha, though some botanists regard them variations of one species.
Edgeworthia chrysantha is a heavily-wooded deciduous shrub. It grows to around 1.2-1.8 m high by 1.5 m wide. Its 12.5-17.5 cm long, pointed oval leaves are soft green with prominent midribs and felted when young.
The foliage is attractive, especially when young, but this is a plant grown for its flowers. They are bright yellow aging to creamy white, tubular and about 1 cm long. Individually they are nothing much, but they are densely packed in 8 cm diameter globose heads. The are very fragrant and open until late winter from buds that have been obvious from late autumn.
The flowers are followed by dry, purplish-green berries known technically as drupes.
This is an often underrated shrub and it is not always instantly appealing. At first, its rather sparse growth and very heavy branches can seem grotesque. But with time these things tend to be overlooked in favour of the delicate colouring and fragrance of the flowers, and the beauty of the new foliage.
A moist, well-drained, humus-enriched soil with partial shade is best – the sort of conditions you would give your rhododendrons and camellias, or for that matter your daphnes. It is hardy to around -15°C and thrives in a cool temperate climate. Propagate by semi-ripe cuttings, aerial layers or seed.
Watch the slide below for more gallery pictures.