The nandina plant that in recent years have been considered an invasive species in several places.
It’s scientific name is nandina domestica, and in China it carries a more affectionate name of sacred bamboo or heavenly bamboo (楠天竹).
Despite the Chinese name, nandina looks nothing like the typical bamboo that shoots up to the sky. The only similarity of the plant other than the color green is that the foliage looks similar in shape.
The evergreen nature of the plant means that it don’t really shed it’s leaves. And it also has a reputable perseverance that gives it the ability to survive winter relatively unaffected.
For this reason, it is sometimes used as a substitute for a member of the 3 friends of winter.
Horticultural architects have been able to cultivate nandina to sprout leaves in a variety of colors including what the experts call blush pink, moon bay and fire power, etc. The vivid colors of the leaves make it very useful as an ornamental shrub to add some spice into the garden aesthetics. There is a Japanese gardening technique called clear-stemming where nandina is used to create an umbrella-like canopy for other plants in the garden.
It can also be flush with red berries. The flowers have white petals with a pinkish hue. And almost all parts of the plant is poisonous.
The toxic in it’s berries especially, has been found to have caused the deaths of birds and other small animals.
Despite this, parts of the plant including the roots, stem and leaf are used by TCM practitioners as herbal remedies.
Symbolism of nandina
The sacred heavenly bamboo is mostly used in symbolic art for it’s name 楠天竹 pronounced nan tian zhu. The word zhu is a play on a similarly sounding word 祝 that means to wish. With the sacred association to the term, it bears the meaning of a somewhat divine wish.
Nandina is also often found in the background of symbolic arrangements for marriage. For example, in the background of the double happiness symbol, to convey the wish for happiness in the recipients’ marriage.
The sacred bamboo is usually identified in artwork by the presence of it’s red berry fruits.