A deciduous shrub of loose habit, 8 to 10 ft high, with erect stems and arching, slender branches, often armed with a spine at the base of each leafstalk or leaf-cluster; the whole plant without down. Leaves composed of three to (normally) five leaflets, borne on a slender common stalk 11⁄2 to 31⁄2 in. long; leaflets stalkless, obovate, 1 to 21⁄2 in. long, 1⁄3 to 1 in. wide, toothed except towards the tapering base. Flowers very small, greenish white, produced during June and later, on a spherical umbel 3⁄4 to 1 in. diameter, terminating a slender stalk 2 to 4 in. long. On the year-old wood the leaves are produced in clusters from the previous year's buds; it is from the centre of this cluster that the inflorescence is borne.
Native of China and Japan; introduced in 1874, but for long confined to cool greenhouses. It is quite hardy if given shelter from north and east, and a most elegant, handsome-foliaged shrub, although destitute of flower beauty. Still more pleasing is the garden variety
cv. 'Variegatus', whose leaflets are edged with a broad border of creamy white. This is one of the daintiest of variegated shrubs, hardy, but needing a sheltered position. Propagated by cuttings made of short, moderately firm shoots in heat; or of harder wood under a handlight. It was once known in gardens as Panax quinquefolium variegatum. Illustrated in Flore des Serres, tt. 2079-80 (1874).