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A genus of evergreen shrubs in E. and S. Asia, the cultivated species coming from China and the Himalaya. They are allied to Buxus, but have alternate leaves and female flowers below the male flowers in the inflorescence (in Buxus the leaves are opposite and the inflorescence comprises several staminate flowers and a single terminal female flower). Some species are rhizomatous, the rhizome and its branches each giving rise at the apex to a single aerial stem which is usually unbranched for some distance above the base. Two species, however, are densely bushy with a much-branched main stem and a well-developed fibrous root-system. The flowers have no petals; the males have four sepals and four stamens, the females four to six sepals. Fruit a fleshy berry, either egg-shaped or globose. The hardy species, all Chinese, are neat and pleasing shrubs with only a modest beauty of flower, but healthy in appearance, the flowers white, fragrant. Increased easily by summer cuttings. They will thrive in any moist soil, and have a value in gardens on account of their suitability for shaded spots.
For an account of the cultivated species, see: J. Robert Sealy, ‘Species of Sarcococca in Cultivation’, Journ. R.H.S. Vol. 74 (1949), pp. 301–6.
The genus is revised by J. Robert Sealy in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, Vol. 92, pp. 117–59 (1986).
The recently named S. orientalis C.Y. Wu is not disposed of in Mr Sealy’s monograph and it is not clear from the short Latin diagnosis how it is supposed to differ from S. hookeriana var. dignyna. It was described from a single specimen collected in Kiangsi. Plants under this name now in cultivation at Wakehurst Place, Sussex, and in a few other collections, are from seeds given to Roy Lancaster in 1980 by the Shanghai Botanic Garden and are believed to have been collected in Chekiang province. These have not yet been verified.