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A semi-woody plant, producing stout, pithy, rather herbaceous, grooved stems 4 to 8 ft high, from a woody root-stock; they die back to ground-level during the winter, and are replaced by a fresh crop the following year. Leaves trifoliolate; leaflets 11⁄2 to 2 in. long, one-third as much wide, becoming smaller towards the upper part of the stem, the centre one longer-stalked than the side ones, oval or oval-lanceolate, coated beneath, especially on the midrib, with appressed greyish hairs. Racemes numerous, up to 6 in. long, produced from the leaf-axils of the upper part and at the end of the shoot, the whole constituting a loose panicle 2 to 21⁄2 ft in length. Each flower is 1⁄2 to 5⁄8 in. long, pea-shaped, rosy-purple. Calyx 1⁄4 in. long, covered with greyish hairs, and divided half-way down into five awl-shaped teeth. Pods ovate, flat, silky, 1⁄3 in. long. Bot. Mag., t. 6602.
Native of N. China and Japan; introduced to Europe about 1837, by Siebold. Although strictly speaking it is scarcely a shrub, it is shrub-like. It is a plant with a luxuriant annual growth of great elegance and beauty, although, flowering late in the season, it does not always reach its best before the frost comes. This is more especially the case after dull wet summers. It starts to flower in September. A single fully grown plant will form a mass 10 ft or more across, the outer stems arching outwards. It is not suitable for planting by itself in large groups in conspicuous places, as it starts into growth late in the season and is still bare of leaf when most other shrubs are in their full spring greenery. The old dead stems must be cut away in spring. Propagated by pulling or chopping the root-stock into the smaller pieces about April. Pieces small enough, with root attached, may be potted and placed in a house where there is bottom-heat.
L. japonica Bailey L. bicolor var. alba Bean; L. bicolor var. intermedia f. albiflora Matsum. – Closely allied to L. thunbergii but with white flowers and leaves with appressed silky hairs on the upper surface. Not known in the wild and considered by Ohwi (Flora of Japan, 1965) to be a cultivar of L. thunbergii – cv. ‘Albiflora’.