This species, closely allied to E. japonicus, is chiefly represented in cultivation by the Japanese variety described below. E. fortunei, in its typical state, is confined to the mainland of E. Asia and differs from the Japanese var. radicans in its leaves, which are elliptic to elliptic-ovate, 1 to 21⁄2 in. long, with the veins prominent beneath and also rather thicker in texture than in var. radicans and not so strongly toothed.
var. radicans (Miq.) Rehd. E. japonicus var. radicans Miq.; E. radicans Sieb.; E. repens Carr. – A creeping, evergreen, glabrous shrub, rooting as it spreads over the ground, but when trained up house-fronts and such-like places reaching 20 ft or more high; branches minutely warty. Leaves oval or somewhat ovate, ordinarily 1⁄2 to 11⁄4 in. long, 1⁄4 to 5⁄8 in. wide; tapering about equally to the base and to the blunt apex, shallowly round-toothed, dark green and glabrous; stalk 1⁄12 in. long, warty. Flowers and fruits as in E. japonicus, but somewhat smaller.
Native of Japan. So far as I have observed, this euonymus never bears flowers or fruit in what we regard as its typical climbing or trailing condition. It appears to be like the ivy, and when it has arrived at the adult or flowering state alters the character of its growth, and instead of the shoots being slender and trailing they become erect and bushy, and bear flowers and fruit of the same character as those of E. japonicus; the leaves also become larger. As a garden shrub it is extremely useful; it thrives almost as well as the ivy in deep shade, and makes an admirable ground covering in sunny positions also. It may be used as an edging for paths, being of less trouble, although not so neat, as box-edging. It can be increased with great rapidity and ease by simply pulling old plants apart into small pieces and replanting; every bit will grow. In the New England States, where ivy is not hardy, this plant is used for covering the fronts of dwelling- houses.
f. carrierei (Vauvel) Rehd. – This is the adult state of var. radicans, taken off and rooted as so-called ‘tree’ ivies are. It is a low, spreading shrub with no inclination to climb; leaves 1 to 2 in. long, 5⁄8 in. to 1 in. wide, glossy. Flowers greenish, four-parted, five or more crowded at the end of a slender stalk; fruit orange-shaped, greenish white or tinged with red, 1⁄3 in. across; seed with an orange-yellow coat (Rev. Hort., 1881, p. 373, and ibid., 1885, p. 295, with figures).
cv. ‘Colorata’. – Leaves turning crimson-purple in the autumn and remaining so throughout the winter.
cv. ‘Kewensis’. – This curious little plant – a var. radicans in miniature- was introduced from Japan by Prof. Sargent, and sent by him to Kew in 1893. Leaves dull green, with the veins picked out in a paler shade; 1⁄4 to 5⁄8 in. long, 1⁄8 to about 1⁄4 in. diameter; ovate, rounded at the base, blunt at the apex, margin slightly decurved and with a few shallow teeth; distinctly, but very shortly stalked. The whole plant, but especially the young shoots, is densely covered with minute warts. In a young state this plant forms low patches an inch or two high. Afterwards, if near a shrub, it will climb up its stems. When support of this kind is lacking it will form a little pyramid of its own branches, growing erect and clinging together. About 1938, Mr Ernest Brown (father of Mr George Brown, Assistant Curator at Kew) planted a piece of ‘Kewensis’ against the trunk of an oak and found that as it grew upwards it gradually developed into the ordinary juvenile state of E. fortunei var. radicans and pushed branches outwards and above the supporting trunk. But at the base of the trunk the plant was still of the original ‘Kewensis’ form (Gard. Chron., Vol. 108, 1940, p. 146). Eventually, in 1958, the aerial branches flowered. Material from Mr Brown’s plant, showing all stages of development, is preserved in the Kew Herbarium.
cv. ‘Minimus’. – Similar to ‘Kewensis’ but with somewhat larger leaves.
cv. ‘Silver Queen’. – This is perhaps the best of the shrubby ‘tree’ forms. The largest leaves are 21⁄2 in. long and more than 1 in. wide, handsomely variegated in white. It is a little uncertain whether ‘Silver Queen’ is invariably bushy. Certainly some of the plants in commerce under the name will climb vigorously but quickly produce aerial stems with leaves up to 21⁄2 in. long. It has not been possible to ascertain who first published the name ‘Silver Queen’, but ‘Silver Gem’ was put into commerce by Messrs Veitch in 1885. This is less bushy when grown in the open, with smaller leaves which, in the plant at Kew, have the silver margins stained with red. On a wall it climbs vigorously.
cv. ‘Variegatus’. – Leaves are rather larger than in ordinary radicans, with a broad marginal band of white, the centre greyish. Introduced from Japan about 1860. When this variety reaches the adult state, the flowering portion assumes a shrubby character and the leaves become larger. As Carrière put it, ‘Variegatus’ is a “larval stage” which gradually develops towards the adult state and many slightly differing forms may be obtained from the same individual (he claimed to have raised six, though two of these were reversions to the green form). It cannot therefore be regarded as a fixed clone. The red staining often seen on the margins of the leaves is also perhaps a fluctuating character, though plants showing this character were known under such epithets as roseo-marginatus or roseo-variegatus. It should be added that the cultivar name ‘Variegatus’ is adopted here because it is the one which seems to have been most used in Britain. On the continent mainly, the names ‘Argenteo-marginata’ or ‘Gracilis’ are in use.
var. vegetus (Rehd.) Rehd. – This appears to be no more than a minor geographical variant, described from a specimen collected in the North Island of Japan near Sapporo and introduced to the Arnold Arboretum from the same area in 1876. It fruits freely and its adult leaves are broad-elliptic to roundish. What is usually seen under this name is the adult, bushy state, which can be made, however, to cover a fence or low wall if trained.