While walking down a river in Nikko, Tochigi, I came across this fragrant plant with clusters of beautiful yellow flowers, reminiscent of corals. After doing some research, I discovered that this plant is called Edgeworthia chrysantha, more commonly known as the Oriental Paperbush or Mitsumata in Japanese. Interestingly, its species name, chrysantha, derives from the Greek words chrusos and anthos, which mean gold and flower, respectively.
Aside from in Japan, this plant species can also be found in southwest China and Nepal. It is a deciduous shrub consisting of “dark green, leathery, single, alternate lanceolate leaves” (Wikipedia). Clusters of flowers jut out from the end of its branches, as can be seen in the pictures above, blooming from silky white to yellow petals starting in the winter through early spring. The life cycle of Edgeworthia chrysantha is said to be “perennial,” since it is able to last for a long duration of time.
Due to its beauty, attributed to its golden-like flowers, Edgeworthia chrysantha is sought after by plant collectors and avid gardeners as an addition to their personal “exotic gardens” (Thompson & Morgan). Aside from aesthetic purposes in gardening, however, the plant also contributes to the purposes of everyday human life. The bark fibres of the plant, for one, provides us with the main material used in creating two types of traditional tissue-like paper unique to Japan: the mitsumata paper and washi (和紙). These papers, in turn, are used for practical purposes, such as writing, and decorative purposes, such as gift-wrapping. Additionally, its strong bark fibres are used in the production of banknotes, ensuring their durability.
The importance of Edgeworthia chrysantha go beyond its beauty– the plant does not only make for a great addition to gardens, but also provides us with the main material important in creating everyday objects, including paper and money.