Trees or shrubs, 1–10 m tall; branches with conspicuous leaf scars, often pubescent when young, glabrous when old. Leaf blade usually green or sometimes variegated with yellow, yellowish, or white spots, variable, from lanceolate to obcordate, pubescent or glabrous, veins raised abaxially, often impressed adaxially, lateral veins usually connected before reaching margin, extending to apex of marginal teeth, margin serrate, glandular serrate, or dentate, rarely entire. Staminate inflorescences (2–)7–15 cm, paniculate or racemose-paniculate, pyramidal, or cylindrical. Carpellate inflorescences panicles, shorter, 1–5 cm. Flowers: calyx lobes minute, triangular or slightly orbicular; petals free, valvate, purplish red, yellow, or green, oblong or ovate, apex acuminate or caudate. Staminate flowers: filaments awl-shaped; anthers dorsifixed, rarely versatile, locules 2, rarely locule 1, dehiscing by longitudinal slits; floral disk fleshy, slightly 4-lobed. Carpellate flowers; sepals and petals articulate at base of ovary, subtended by 1 or 2 bracteoles. Fruit cylindrical or ovoid. 2n = 16, 32.
Shrubs [trees]. Leaves: blade flat, coriaceous [subcoriaceous], margins dentate or entire [serrate or glandular-serrate], flat. Inflorescences terminal, panicles; bracts opposite, distinct; bracteoles 1–2 per flower. Pedicels present. Staminate flowers: sepals 4, triangular to suborbiculate, minute; petals 4, apex acuminate [caudate]; nectary present, annular; stamens alternate with petals, anthers dorsifixed. Pistillate flowers: sepals 4, triangular to suborbiculate, minute; petals 4; nectary present, annular; ovule 1; style 1, cylindric; stigma capitate, sometimes slightly 2(–4)-lobed. Fruits drupes, red, drying black, cylindric to ovoid, fleshy. Seeds 1 per fruit. x = 8.
SELECTED REFERENCES Abe, T. 2001. Flowering phenology, display size, and fruit set in an understory dioecious shrub, Aucuba japonica (Cornaceae). Amer. J. Bot. 88: 455–461. Iwashina, T., K. Kamenosono, and H. Hatta. 1997. Flavonoid glycosides from leaves of Aucuba japonica and Helwingia japonica (Cornaceae): Phytochemical relationship with the genus Cornus. J. Jap. Bot. 72: 337–346.
|[Latinized Japanese name aokiba]|