Akebia quinata flowers

Akebia quinata flowers

Akebia quinata or Chocolate Vine is a climber with a profusion of chocolate scented flowers.

The fruit is sausage shaped and has deliciously sweet flesh, making it a popular treat.

Very vigorous grower, it can become invasive and is on the invasive species list in New Zealand.

Description:

Akebia quinata is a semi-persistent vigorous vine: persistent until USDA zone 6, deciduous in colder areas.

The stems are a purple brown and can reach 10 m long.

The sheets are composed of five leaflets.

The dark purple flowers are 5-7 cm. They smell like chocolate. The flowers grow in clusters with the female flowers at the base and male flowers at the top.

It takes a long hot summer for fruit to form and mature and there is more fruit when different varieties are grown near each other. Although self-pollination can lead to fruition, it is less abundant. Flowering occurs in spring.

The fruit is sausage shaped, dark purple, 5-10 cm long and edible. The white flesh contains hundreds of small seeds. The taste is a mixture of banana, lychee and passion fruit but may vary from bland to very pronounced.

Uses:

Culinary: the flesh of the fruit is eaten raw as a delicacy, the rind is cooked.

Ornamental: the vine is grown for its vigorous growth and chocolate scented flowering.

Medicinal: leaves, stems and roots are used in traditional Chinese medicine as a diuretic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and galactagogue.

Akebia quinata foliage

Akebia quinata foliage

Nomenclature:

Common names:

Akebia, chocolate vine, fiveleaf akebia, raisin fine

Synonyms:

Akebia micrantha, Akebia quinata var. diplochlamys, Akebia quinata var. polyphylla, Akebia quinata var. viridiflora, Akebia quinata var. yechi, Rajania quinata

Etymology:

Akebia: from the Japanese name for the plant, akebi
Quinata: from the Latin quinque (five), referring to the five lobes of the leaf

Origin:

East Asia: Japan, Korea, China



Habitat:

In temperate forests: forest margins along streams or shrubs on the mountain slopes, 300-1,500 m altitude.

Hardiness:

USDA zone 4-8, aerial parts die at -5 °C, the plant dies at -20 °C

Akebia quinata fruit

Akebia quinata fruit

Care:

Soil:

Undemanding

Light:

Sun, partial shade and shade but more sun is beneficial for fruiting

Water:

Benefits from regular watering but is drought resistant

Pruning:

Growth is vigorous, may be pruned after flowering to give a less cluttered appearance to the plant.

It may also be cut down to the ground in late fall for it will restart the following spring.

Harvest:

The fruits need 40-50 days to mature, about late September to early November. The optimal day for harvesting is when a gray line becomes visible along the ventral suture. Fruits can be stored 2-3 weeks at room temperature and up to 3 months if refrigerated.

Propagation:

Seed, cuttings, layering

Sowing instructions:

  • sow in a cold frame as soon as the seeds are harvested from ripe fruit
  • stored seeds should be stratified for 1 month but will not germinate easily
  • surface sow
  • germination time: 1-3 months at 15 °C
  • transplant the seedlings when they are large enough to be handled
  • keep seedlings in half shaded place in a cold greenhouse for their first winter
  • plant in the garden in late spring or early summer

Cutting instructions:

  • collect semi-woody cuttings in summer or softwood in spring
  • place in a cold frame where they will spend the first winter
  • plant in the garden the following spring

Layering instructions:

  • in spring
  • quite easy: the stems growing in soil spontaneously form roots, just dig up the new plants and plant them directly in place

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