Fatsherdera is a versatile artificial cross

I guess you could call it a GMO. The plant is an artificial combination of two entirely different plants. They are in the same family but not even in the same genus, let alone the same species. It is a cross between English Ivy (genus Hedera) and Japanese aralia (genus Fatsia). Fatshedera was originally developed in France over a hundred years ago.

Another name for the plant is bush ivy, and while it was artificially contrived, it doesn’t exactly fit the modern definition of a GMO. Neither does Leyland cypress, also a cross of two plants from different genera.

To be a true GMO a plant must be infused with a gene or genes from another entirely different species. In addition, the plant must remain the same species and not be some separate hybrid one. GMO corn is still corn and GMO soybeans are still soybeans. The difference with Fatshedera is that the resulting offspring is entirely different than either of its parents.

English ivy is a trailing vine that climbs using aerial roots. Japanese aralia is an evergreen shrub. Combination of the two yields a plant that is naturally sprawling. It can cover a trellis or be used as a ground cover. With frequent pruning, bush ivy is easily trained into a shrub. These stem cuttings root easily, usually without rooting hormone.

Shiny leaves are much larger than those on English ivy but much smaller than Fatsia leaves. Plants may be either variegated or solid green. Fragrant flowers show themselves in late summer and fall and are in ball-shaped clusters of white flowers.

From my experience, bush ivy is slightly more winter hardy than Japanese aralia but far less hardy than English ivy. In a hard winter, some of the tips will die back a little. This is because it grows well in cool weather and doesn’t go into full dormancy until late in the fall.

Fatshedera also thrives in a wide variety of soil types. It probably grows best in partial sun situations, but it readily handles full shade and tolerates full sun quite well.

This cross also makes a great houseplant. It has few pest problems. Occasionally scales and mealybugs attack it, but it tolerates salt spray and pollution very well. Spider mites don’t seem to bother it as much as they do either of its parents. Bush ivy can grow in the brightest to only moderate indoor light levels.

Fatshedera will not reproduce from seed. Propagation by cuttings is the preferred method to increase the numbers of this plant. This isn’t surprising, as most crosses from different species are infertile. Mules are the cross of a male donkey and a female horse, and they’re sterile too.

Since these plants won’t reproduce by seed there is very little chance that they could become invasive. One drawback is that all parts of the plant are poisonous if swallowed.

Fatshedera is an interesting plant that few people cultivate. It is easy to contain and works well in the ground or in a pot. It also makes a tough houseplant.


Fatshedera cutting ready to be planted



Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.

About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I recently retired from teaching high school agriculture after 25 years teaching with my wife. Until recently I wrote a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper (dailyadvance.com). I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that can be purchased on Amazon in Kindle format. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone (presently out of print), a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death (this one is not yet published). In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books. I also wrote a romance novel titled Virginia. It is available on Amazon and is a different type of romance from a man's perspective.
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1 Response to Fatsherdera is a versatile artificial cross

  1. tonytomeo says:

    It is an intergeneric hybrid, between two different genera. Most familiar hybrids are interspecific, between two different species. When we studied it back in the 1980s, I learned it as a hybrid between Japanese aralia and Algerian ivy. It makes more sense that the ivy parent was actually English. This plant used to be popular among landscapes for Eichler Homes.

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