Paxistima canbyi
Common Name: cliff green 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Celastraceae
Native Range: Eastern United States
Zone: 3 to 7
Height: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Bloom Time: May
Bloom Description: Green
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Hedge, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Deer, Erosion


Best grown in organically rich, well-drained soils in part shade. Tolerates full sun. Thrives in rocky-sandy soils.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Paxistima canbyi, commonly known as Canby’s mountain lover or cliff green, is a dense, dwarf, broadleaf evergreen shrub of the staff-tree family that grows to only 8-12” tall but spreads outward by decumbent branches which root where they touch the ground eventually forming sizeable colonies to 3-4’ wide (sometimes wider). It is native to upland open woods, wooded slopes, limestone bluffs and cliffs in a few scattered locations in the central Appalachian Mountains from southern Pennsylvania and southern Ohio south to Tennessee and North Carolina. It is rarely found in its native range, being currently listed as a threatened species in Kentucky and as an endangered species in the States of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and Tennessee. Simple, opposite, short-petioled, leathery, linear-oblong or narrow-oblong, lustrous, dark green leaves (each 1/2 to 1” long) are evergreen, but usually acquire some copper-green to bronze tones in cold winters. Small green flowers (1/4” across) in few-flowered cymes bloom from the upper leaf axils in May. Each flower has 4 petals and 4 sepals. Flowers give way to non-ornamental, 2-valved seed capsules.

Genus name comes from the Greek words pachys meaning thick and stigma meaning the female reproductive organ in reference to the thick stigmas of genus plants.

Specific epithet honors William Marriot Canby (1831-1904), railroad executive, businessman, director of financial institutions, philanthropist, plant collector and amateur botanist of Wilmington, Delaware who reported discovered this species growing in the wild.

Additional common names for this shrub include rat-stripper in reference to the proclivity of rats to strip off and eat the leaves and bark for winter food.


No serious insect or disease problems. Susceptible to fungal leaf spot and root rot. Scale and mites may appear.


Rock gardens. Low hedge. Ground cover. Sandy-rocky soils. Woodland gardens.