1160 Pachysandra procumbensCommon Names: Allegheny spurge Family: Buxaceae (boxwood Family)
Allegheny spurge is a low growing evergreen (in the south) to deciduous (farther north) subshrub in the boxwood (Buxaceae) family. It grows in clumps 6-10 in (15-25 cm) tall, and spreads by creeping stolons, forming a ground cover under ideal conditions. The leaves are grayish green, mottled with purple or brown splashes, and 3-5 in (7-12 cm) in length. They are oval to almost round and toothed toward the apex. Allegheny spurge has white flowers with pink tinges, and unlike the related Japanese spurge (P. terminalis), the flower spikes emanate from near the ground at the bases of leaf shoots. The musky scented white flowers are borne on 4-5 in (10-12 cm) spikes with the male flowers above the female flowers, a condition that could be called missionary. The fruits are woody capsules that split open when ripe, but most plants rarely produce fruits.
Pachysandra procumbens is native to the southeastern U.S. from Kentucky, West Virginia and southern Indiana, south to northern Florida and west to Louisiana. Allegheny spurge grows on calcareous bluffs and in rich woods with limestone near the surface. Allegheny spurge is a relatively rare plant with a discontinuous distribution and known from only a few locations, but where it does occur it may have a fairly large and healthy population.
CultureLight: Allegheny spurge grows in shade to partial shade. A dappled shade under big trees is ideal. Leaves tend to be paler in sunnier locations. Moisture: Grow Allegheny spurge is rich, moist, neutral to limey soil that does not get waterlogged nor completely dried out. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 10. Allegheny spurge is evergreen in zones 8-10. Propagation: Propagation is by division or by rooting stem cuttings.
Allegheny spurge is not as common in cultivation as the related Japanese spurge (P. terminalis). This is a pity since the American species is showier, less invasive and, well, native. Use Allegheny spurge as a ground cover in a shady woodland garden, or for erosion control on shady slopes. Not as robust or as fast growing as Japanese spurge, Allegheny spurge is a good choice for a shady groundcover in smaller areas. It is rather slow growing, but will eventually form a lovely carpet of gray-green mottled leaves which is prettier than the Japanese spurge’s ground cover.
In USDA zones 4-7, Allegheny spurge loses its leaves in winter and sends up flower spikes a week or two before the leaves in early spring. In warmer climates, the flower spikes may be partially concealed by the overwintering foliage.
Pachysandra procumbens is listed as an Endangered Species in Florida where it is known only from Jackson County in the Panhandle. The species is also considered Endangered in Indiana.
Steve Christman 8/27/12; updated 11/24/12