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Akebia quinata 'Shirobana'

Akebia quinata 'Shirobana'

The male flowers of the "chocolate vine". I suppose that since this particular cultivar is bleached of most of its colour, one could call it the white chocolate vine...

Akebia flowers are another macro challenge, and this is yet another photograph I've been attempting for three years in a row. The plants are located along the fence at the upper end of the Alpine Garden, which is fairly exposed to both breeze and sun.

The black and white version of this photo and an image of the fruit for this plant are available here: Akebia quinata 'Shirobana'.

27 Comments

Douglas Justice commented:

I'm particularly fond of akebias, not least because they produce edible fruits. My father planted the typical purple flowering form on a huge vertical trellis in the front yard when I was a teenager. The trellis screened a patio that had an 8'x 8' inset chess board. The black squares were slate and the white, marble. He had had chess pieces manufactured out of solid fibreglass and painted to look like something much heavier. The rooks were particularly impressive and were the first pieces to be stolen. Needless to say, I was more interested in studying the akebia than playing chess--but then, so was he. Besides the neat, palmately compound leaves and twining stems, what fascinated me most were the flowers.

Akebias are monoecious (separate male and female flowers on the same plant) with usually a single female flower at the base of a many-flowered raceme. Almost everything to do with the flowers was purple--the peduncles (inflorescence stems) and pedicels (individual flower stems), the 3 petaloid sepals (there are no petals), the stamens (although upon splitting open, the anthers release blue pollen). The female flower has a cluster of separate tiny cylindrical carpels, each tipped with a glistening stigma (pollen receptive surface). Like miniature purple cigars. To my botanically inexperienced mind, the akebia set me a challenge. Why was the basal flower so different from the others, and what were all these interesting parts?

The fruit (see image in the forums from link above) is actually a fleshy follicle (follicles are dry fruits that open along a longitudinal suture) with an edible pulp that surrounds the seeds. The pulp is tapioca-like both in texture and flavour, but to my palate there's also a hint of passion fruit. The akebia's mode of flowering is known as protogyny, where the female (carpellate) flower is ripe before pollen is released by the staminate flowers. In the wild, such a strategy effectively limits self pollination.

I can only imagine what I would have thought had I seen fruits on the vine at home. Had my father planted a different clone within pollinator distance, I would have. It was much later that I saw these, but by that time, I could work out what I was looking at. The carpellate akebia flower is borne close to the stem, because each of its multiple but separate carpels has the capacity, if fertilized, to produce a heavy, sausage-like fruit, about 15 cm long and 6 or 7 cm thick. Generally, no more than 3 carpels develop in one flower, but where they do, the results are extraordinary. Something like a small bunch of fat purple bananas. And then they spit open to reveal white flesh and a bead of goop surrounding watermelon-like seeds. What's not to like?

Easy for me to say, gardening in Vancouver, where the cool, wet winter generally prevents the survival of dispersed seed. This is certainly not the case in warmer locations around the temperate world, where Akebia quinata has become a noxious weed.

julie yearsley commented:

I have a akebis quinata which i planted last year ina large pot to climb over a pergola for its attractiveness and scent. It has grown profusely with masses of leave bbut no fruit or flowers. Could you advise. Many thanks amateur gardener.

Daniel Mosquin commented:

Julie, I've posted your question to UBC Botanical Garden's plant discussion forums here.

Norlene commented:

Hello- this vine is going into its 2nd year and ,of course no flowers or fruit yet. It is in a very sunny location, shade late afternoon. The soil is very good and moist. Growth is controllable. My question is: The bottom leaves of the vine (2ft) seem to have a brown spottle around the edges of the leaves. What is this? What is causing this?

Sally Flower commented:

I had some attempts to plant akebia, but they failed. I was so sad, I didn't know what was wrong. The temperature and illumination were optimal, probably, something wrong with emotional atmosphere in my house. It's a mystery.

Summer commented:

Hi. I was wondering if my akebia would grow ok on a tall obelisk trellis?

Daniel Mosquin commented:

Hi Summer,

This would be a better question for the UBC Botanical Garden Forums - all I can offer is that I'm fairly certain it would be okay, as long as the trellis is sturdy enough.

Lorraine commented:

I have a 3 year old Akebia Quintata which is absolutely laden with green sausage shaped fruit.
I'm assuming I must wait for them to turn purple before they will become ripe enough to eat.
Please advise

Daniel Mosquin commented:

Yes, that's correct, Lorraine.

Brian commented:

Do you have any akebia seeds

Daniel Mosquin commented:

Brian - doubt it (and I doubt this plant would come true from seed). You can email the garden's shop to check, though: Shop in the Garden.

Christina commented:

Our outside, arbor akebia has just sprouted fruit. I noticed them for the first time two days ago when I saw a faint lilac color, odd-shaped fruit on the ground. I assumed it was a ground mushroom or other fungus that the dog had found and played with. On first glance, I thought the seed containing pulp inside was some sort of over-sized grub worm or hairless caterpillar. It had the very same shape and look. Truly revolting at first glance. After further discovery and smell and touch (the fruit has an incredibly smooth skin), I found it to be quite pleasant, looked up and discovered a few more hanging above. Once they fall to the ground, the ants and slugs have a field day. Our vine has been growing for approx. eight years now and this is the first time I've seen it bear fruit. I am very pleasantly surprised.

yill commented:

necesito semillas de esta hermos planta

Daniel Mosquin commented:

yill, that would be a good question for the Sourcing Plants forum on the UBC Botanical Garden Forums - you'll need to register, though, since that is a forums-members-only area.

Emilie commented:

I live in south of France and planted an akebia quinata about 2 or 3 years ago. It gave me 1 flower last year, has barely grown at all, but I still love it (shape, leaves, flower). I just wish it could gave me more.
Do you have any clue?
thanks

Daniel Mosquin commented:

Hello Emilie, sounds like a question for the UBC Botanical Garden Forums.

Emilie commented:

Thanks a lot Daniel for the advice I will try there.

akebia commented:

hola!
mi nombre es akebia yinseng anatolio jimenez me encantaria saber mas de esta planta pero resulta que no hablo muy bien el ingles; tengo 15 años y quisiera investigar mas sobre esta hermosa planta
por favor localicenme si, quisiera lagunas semillas de esta planta

Eric La Fountaine commented:

Hola Yill y Akebia,

No vendemos semillas de esta planta. No es probable crecer esta planta particular de semilla, hay que conseguir un clon. Quizás puede buscar un Akebia quinata 'Shirobana' en una almáciga cerca de usted.

victor wong commented:

I have 3 different Akebias in my yard in Vancouver. They are in different positions. The Akebia quinata in the front yard is the oldest about 15 years now tangled up with a seed grown Wisteria sinensis, both flowering at the same time in spring. This Akebia got the south facing sunny location and climbs up to the second floor balcony of the house and spread out , and I prune it constantly.
The second one is at the back yard planted the same time under a Magnolia tree the same way after a visit to the Van Dusen Garden. I guess I had under estimate the height of the Magnolia... So every year now this Akebia quinata 'Shinobana' climbs quick to the top of the Magnolia which is 2 storey high and spreads out and form a canopy so thick and blocked out the light for the Magnolia.
3 years without pruning the Akebia will result in Magnolia with no flowers. As a matter of fact, I just again pruned it today and saved the bunches of very fragrant flowers to perfume my room.
The 3rd one is on a stone fence facing the east with morning and afternoon sun, but with competitions from Hops, Passion flowers, Honeysuckles, Aristolochia etc., so remains in control and no need to prune.
The last one is Akebia trifoliata with bigger leaves and earlier flowers of deeper burgandy. Look like this one love even the north exposure and will frighten my cherry tree.
Akebia quinata is used in Japan as an ingredients in cosmetics to help the skin to stay young and also to keep moisture in the skin.
I had fruits and buried the seeds in the ground of the yard and then when they germinated in Spring, either pot them up or transplanted them in other area of the yard, and 3 years ago I planted a baby Akebia under the sour cherry tree, and now it is heading up the trunk!

Juan commented:

Yes. You can plant Akebia by seeds. I just harvested a new batch this year. The going price is 12 seeds for a dollar plus shipping.

Linda Gardner commented:

Just received a deep purple akebia plant. I live in Cincinnati, OH. Where is the best place to plant this? Full sun, part sun, protected from wind, what about cold winters?

jess commented:

hi,akebia is eazy to grow,make sure that you feed them when planted,then mulch for the winter,watter and feed i summer.prune if nesesery 1 year

Lille-Mor Olsson commented:

I live at the west cost in Sweden. I have a wonderful Akebia in my garden. It is about 5 meters high and this year I've got fruits for the first time. It took about 3 years before i´ve got the first flower but now the akebia is wonderful every year. It is a strong plant and I had no problems with cold winters.

Linda commented:

Can Akebia be grown from cuttings?

Deebee commented:

I have two akebias (different varieties), both bought from a good nursery. They were about 2' high when planted early last year on a north facing wall in a raised bed with very rich well drained soil about two feet deep, originally composed of about 1/3 well rotted horse manure. One put on a huge amount of growth last year, the other a more modest amount, neither were pruned at all.

After a very cold winter here (London), they both already have incipient flowers at virtually every bud, I would guess there will be at least 200 flowers in due course. Interestingly, the one that put on less growth has already put out a dozen new shoots, while the other has no new shoots at all as yet. I'm hoping that I will get a load of fruit, we shall see. So there's no reason why you should not get flowers in the second year with a good plant, and no reason to avoid a north facing wall.

But I'm not sure whether it is better to prune mid-summer or wait until the winter, in order to maximise flowering but also restrict growth.

Viva commented:

Does anyone know if the shirobana akebia can be permanently grown in a container? or does it have to be planted in the ground?

Comments are closed.

If you have a gardening question, the best place to ask is on the UBC Botanical Garden Forums. Thank you!

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