Ardisia elliptica
Common Name: shoebutton 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Primulaceae
Native Range: Asia-Tropical
Zone: 8 to 10
Height: 10.00 to 16.00 feet
Spread: 10.00 to 16.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to August
Bloom Description: Light pink to pale violet
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Heavy Shade, Wet Soil

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 8-10 where it is easily grown in moist, acidic, organically rich soils in part shade to full shade. It thrives in moderately wet soil conditions. Foliage may burn in full sun locations. Often spreads aggressively in the landscape by self-seeding.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Ardisia elliptica, commonly known as shoebutton ardisia or duck’s-eyes, is a tropical to semi-tropical broadleaf evergreen shrub or small tree that typically grows in understory thickets to 10-16’ tall and as wide. It is native to the western coast of India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Southeast Asia, New Guinea and the Philippines, but has been widely introduced and cultivated as an ornamental in warm locations throughout the world, with naturalization occurring in such places as Puerto Rico, some Caribbean islands, tropical Australia, several islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans including the State of Hawaii, and in southern Florida.

Shoebutton ardisia features (a) alternate, flat-margined, smooth and leathery, oblanceolate to obovate, evergreen leaves (to 6” long) with pointed tips and wedge-shaped bases, (b) star-shaped, axillary, light pink to pale violet flowers (to 1/2” long) which bloom in conspicuous umbellate inflorescences, often sporadically throughout the year, and (c) rounded, berry-like drupes which emerge white, develop to red, but finally ripen to a deep purple-black. Flowers have chambered anthers (not present in any other species of Aridisia), but a microscope is needed to confirm this.

Unfortunately, shoebutton ardisia tends to be invasive in some habitats, including southern Florida where it is now listed as a noxious weed. Seeds are typically disbursed by birds and small mammals. Southern Florida growing sites include mangrove and cypress stands, hammocks, marshes, fallow fields and altered wet lands where plants frequently form monotypic thickets which crowd out native plants.

Genus name comes from the Greek aradis meaning a point in reference to the pointed anthers of these flowering trees and shrubs.

Specific epithet means elliptic in reference to leaf shape.

Common name of shoebutton ardisia is in reference to the purported resemblance of the fruit to old fashioned black shoe buttons. Common name of duck’s-eyes is in reference to the purported resemblance of the black fruits to the eyes of a flock of ducks hiding in the plant foliage.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Invasive plant that cannot legally be grown in areas where growth is prohibited by law. In areas where it may be legally grown, growth is often discouraged where aggressive spread is likely to occur. This plant generally performs best in shady areas with moist to wet soils. Often thrives in moist woodland areas and shade gardens.