I think its sick so any help with ID'ing this guy would be much appreciated.
Yes, Fatsia japonica. Possibly just chilly. You don't give your zone.
If nw-hillbilly as is Pacific Northwest, there has been enough cold this winter to burn fatsia leaves. Looks a little windbeaten as well.
I'm curious as to why its stem is exposed. It should have a nice "skirt" of lower leaves (and be well mulched over its root zone to boot).
One of those plants that is prevalent as an older specimen in urban areas near Puget Sound but not hardy enough to last farther out - I can't even get it to live up on top of Camano Island, with salt water all around but still apparently significantly colder than down in the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area.
.... It should have a nice "skirt" of lower leaves ....
Only if that is the look the owner wants. And to achieve it a specimen this old would have to be kept cut back. Its natural state is to grow to small, often multi-stemmed, tree and to lose its lower leaves.
"One of those plants that is prevalent as an older specimen in urban areas near Puget Sound but not hardy enough to last farther out "
Strange because they are somewhat common in collector's gardens around Washington, DC, which even in a 'normal' year is much colder than the greater PNW. I'm pretty sure some of them are coming back after this year, which was the coldest in 20 years. Maybe an Asian plant that hardens better with hot summers.
Hello - Thank you for all of the responses. I'm zone 8, specifically Kirkland, WA. It wasn't particularly cold this winter, we did have record rainfall though. It still looks a bit downtrodden, but new growth is coming in so it appears to be on the rebound.
Actually, it was particularly cold this winter and I had damage to, or outright lost things that are fine most years. There was a week of below normal cold temps in December, and a second that broke records last set in 1949 in February.
Fatsia, like many broadleaf evergreens, does not like morning winter sun in colder climes.
Ideally, it is best sited in shade. Too bright a situation combined with our unique late winter weather has done some damage. Cut back hard and perhaps consider relocating in a shadier spot. In a woodsy or less exposed setting, this plant would have experienced minimal winter damage. I know of several large specimens in the foothills/Issaquah area.
It always depends on the total combination of circumstances, including soil conditions that each planting experiences.