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any Asian plant of the liliaceous genus Aspidistra, esp A. lurida, a popular house plant with long tough evergreen leaves and purplish flowers borne on the ground
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a genus of perennial stemless grasses of the family Liliaceae. Aspidistras have basal evergreen leathery leaves and small flowers that sit upon short scapes near the ground. There are between six and eight species distributed in the mountains of South and East Asia and Japan. In the USSR, Aspidistra lurida (A. elatior) is often cultivated in greenhouses and indoors under the name “friendly family.” It is highly tolerant of shade. In subtropical regions it can also be cultivated outdoors.


Kiselev, G. E. Tsvetovodstvo, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1964.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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The Aspidistra elatior has corn-like, shiny, dark green leaves that grow to 24 inches long.
minor or Aspidistra Milky Way has white spotted black-green leaves.
The Aspidistra originates from the Eastern Himalayas, Taiwan, China and Japan.
But it took until the '30s to inspire a novel, with George Orwell penning Keep The Aspidistra Flying.
A LADY contacted me a few weeks ago to ask if we would like a large aspidistra plant to display in the hall.
The aspidistra's ability to withstand draughts, pollution from all the coal fires plus their tolerance of the lack of daylight in the dimly lit hallways of the town houses stood them in good stead.
A few years ago you had more chance of finding bags of composted rocking horse droppings in your local garden centre than aspidistras, but in the last 18 months or so they have started to appear among the exotic house plants.
Aspidistras have come in on the back of the interest in antiques with large pots and stands a feature of any self respecting fair or gallery, so the plants tend to carry a premium for being trendy.
If you are one of those people with the ability to kill off even plastic flowers then the old aspidistra will present a real challenge - it is not known as the cast iron plant for nothing.