Mitsumata (aka paperbush) in a forest in Japan
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Mitsumata, the money shrub. Mitsumata blossoms
The mitsumata blossoms pictured in the forest here, are beautiful in their natural state but the bark of the mitsumata shrub (Edgeworthia chrysantha) has much more to offer. Originally brought from China to Japan by monks, the green plant is now a staple of Japanese papermaking and one of three main ingredients in traditional Japanese paper known as washi.
No wonder, then, that it’s also known as the Oriental paperbush. Mitsumata washi is dense and holds ink well - it’s a favourite of artists and calligraphers - and sheets of mitsumata paper are used in traditional shoji screens. The dense, short fibre from the inner layer of bark helps create a sturdy currency too. Mitsumata made its Japanese banknote debut in 1879, and it’s still used in currency today.
Spring’s the time to catch the golden flowers in bloom - you’ll smell the heady fragrance before you see the bush itself. After the flowers fade, the leaves take on a bluish, silvery hue and in autumn they turn golden themselves.