Leaf of the Day: The Handsome Leopard Plant

Today a leaf from the Farfugium japonicum, Aureomaculata the spotted Leopard Plant native to China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

Farfugioum, Aureomaculata,, with not very happy flowers

This handsome plant can grow up to 5 ft high with a leaf span of 2 ft. There are three varieties at Leu, a variegated one, Variegata, the large glossy leaved Gigantea and the spotted one Aureomaculata which I have drawn. In reality the spots look like bleach splashed on the green leaves which I am not entirely sure I like. The yellow makes the leaves look slightly sick. I knew that variegations in plants were caused by genetic mutations but did not know that these plants were called “chimera” plants. The allusion is, of course, to the classical Chimera who was assembled from the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and the tail of or dragon… a nice mixture of myth and science..

Farfugium Gigantea

It seems that Farfugiums (formerly known as Ligualrias) were introduced into England from China by the extraordinary Scotsman Robert Fortune in 1856. Mr Fortune was another fearless Victorian plantsman/explorer who I came across when reading about tea. Apart from taking the tea plant from China to India at risk of losing his life, a wonderful story which I must come back to, he introduced many beautiful and exotic species to Europe including azaleas, chrysanthemums, the Japanese anemone, tree peonies, kumquats, and rhododendrons. His travels were fascinating and his contribution to the gardens of Europe outstanding.

This is a relatively small leaf from the plant but quite a big drawing, again in the 14 x 11 sketchbook. Sometimes I can’t decide which angle to draw something from, but these leaves look good from almost any direction. They have a beautiful crossover at the centre where the stem joins the leaf blade. I am sure I will be making another black and white study soon as I like its structure and prefer the spots in white!

Leopard Plant Leaf, Farfugium