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Herb Gallery

Mai Men Dong (Ophiopogon japonicus)

  • Botanical name: Ophiopogon japonicus
  • Common name: Ophiopogon tuber, Mondo grass
  • Literal name translation: luxuriant winter
  • Family: Liliaceae, lily family
  • Part used in Chinese medicine: root tuber
  • Major Chinese medicine actions:
  • Moisten Lungs and nourishes yin, nourishes Stomach yin,
    generates fluids, nourishes Heart yin and clears irritability
Ophiopogon japonicus
Ophiopogon japonicus
Ophiopogon japonicus

Photo Credits: (top to bottom)
Photo 1: Ophiopogon japonicus; 07/2008; author; C. Micleu; permission Jade Institute
Photo 2: Ophiopogon japonicus; 04/2008; author Kenpei; permission under Creative Commons
Photo 3: Ophiopogon japonicus; 06/2006; author Blahedo; permission under GFDL

Growing and Propagation

The plant does well in sun to shade, requires moist or wet soil and can grow in water, though it will not flower when grown as an aquatic plant. The foliage will be light green when plants are grown in filtered sun, and have darker green leaves when grown in shade. It can be grown in ordinary garden soil, requiring minimal attention once established. The plant is hardy in USDA zones 6 to 9.

Propagation can be achieved by seed that is sown as soon as it is ripe. They are best grown in individual pots or in a cold frame for the first winter until established, and then transplanted to a permanent location in late spring or early summer after the last frost. Large clumps can also be divided and replanted as long as there are at least 8-10 leaves on each section. It is best to include as many roots in each division as possible.

Harvesting and Preparation

For medicinal use, the small root tubers should be large, soft, and light yellowish white and translucent in color. They should be aromatic and sweet tasting. The small tubers are also listed in the text “Jiuhunag Bencao” as a famine food.


Native to East Asia and Japan, Ophiopogon japonicus is now widely cultivated by gardeners as a clumping evergreen ground cover. It grows 6-10 inches high, has green grass-like leaves and short flower stalks blooming with lilac to white flowers in August. In autumn, blue, globe-shaped berries appear.