1. Family: Asparagaceae Juss.
    1. Genus: Ophiopogon Ker Gawl.
      1. Ophiopogon planiscapus Nakai

        Despite its grass-like leaves, lilyturf is actually a member of the asparagus family (Asparagaceae). The specific epithet planiscapus means ‘flattened scape’ and refers to the flattened flower-stalk of this species.


    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description
    Lilyturf is a clump-forming perennial native to Japan, a dark-leaved cultivar of which is popular as an ornamental.

    Despite its grass-like leaves, lilyturf is actually a member of the asparagus family (Asparagaceae). The specific epithet planiscapus means ‘flattened scape’ and refers to the flattened flower-stalk of this species.

    The cultivar Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ (also known as black lilyturf, black grass or black mondo grass) has blackish leaves and is a popular ornamental. This small but striking plant is often grown against a contrasting light background such as gravel or silvery foliage.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Ophiopogon planiscapus is native to central and southern Japan.


    Overview:An evergreen, clump-forming perennial with dense tufts of leaves growing from short rhizomes (underground stems).

    Leaves: Grass-like, strap-shaped, deep green, 30–50 cm long and 4–6 mm wide.

    Flowers: Small (6–7 mm long), nodding, bell-shaped, pale purple or white flowers are borne on 20–30 cm long, erect, flattened flower stalks (scapes) in summer.

    Fruits: Round, fleshy, dull blue and 3–5 mm wide.

    Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’:This cultivar has arching, blackish leaves, 20–30 cm long and small, purplish flowers followed by glossy, blackish fruits.


    Lilyturf is a useful plant for providing ground cover and is also planted for erosion control.

    The cultivar Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ is a popular ornamental that is grown for its dense tufts of blackish, grass-like leaves. The Royal Horticultural Society has given Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ its prestigious Award of Garden Merit.

    This species at Kew

    Lilyturf can be seen growing in the Winter Garden at Wakehurst.

    Pressed and dried specimens of Ophiopogon planiscapus are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment. The details of some other species of Ophiopogon, including some images, can be seen online in Kew’s Herbarium Catalogue.

    Kew’s Olympic floral spectacular

    From April to September 2012 a floral spectacular was in bloom in front of the Orangery at Kew Gardens to celebrate the London 2012 Olympic Games. This enormous representation of the Olympic rings could even be admired by air passengers flying over the Gardens.

    The 50 m display included pelargoniums ( Pelargonium × hortorum ‘Horizon Red’), French marigolds ( Tagetes patula ‘Atom Yellow’) and lobelias ( Lobelia erinus ‘Cambridge Blue’). The black ring was created using black lilyturf ( Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) and the green ring was planted with apple mint  (Mentha suaveolens).

    The five interlaced rings designed in 1913 by the founder of the modern Olympic Games Baron Pierre de Coubertin represent the coming together of five continents to embrace the Olympic values: striving for excellence, demonstrating respect and celebrating friendship.

    Woods and thickets in lowlands and foothills.
    Not assessed according to IUCN Red List criteria.

    None known.



    Common Names


    Ophiopogon planiscapus Nakai appears in other Kew resources:

    First published in Index Seminum (TI, Tokyo) 1919-1920: 33 (1920)

    Accepted in:

    • [1] (2016) Flora of Japan IVb: 1-335. Kodansha Ltd., Tokyo
    • [5] Ohwi, J. (1984) Flora of Japan (in English) . Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.


    • [2] World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2010). Ophiopogon planiscapus. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [3] Mabberley, D. J. (2008). Mabberley’s Plant-book: a Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses. 3rd Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
    • [4] Huxley, A., Griffiths, M. & Levy, M. (eds) (1999). The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening, Volume 3 (L to Q). Macmillan Reference, London.
    • [6] Ohwi, J. (1965). Flora of Japan (in English). Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.


    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2017). Published on the internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp
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    Kew Species Profiles
    Kew Species Profiles
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