How does your garden grow?
By Eric Danell, Dokmai Garden
The Jade Vine
vine or Strongylodon macrobotrys is a tropical plant used to more humidity
than Chiang Mai has to offer and needs the right place to grow.
There is a marvellous plant from the
Philippines with flowers the colour of old stearin left on a brass
candelabrum: the jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys, Fabaceae).
Being a princess from a tropical oceanic climate, she demands a lot of
tenderness to thrive in the dry Chiang Mai valley. Here at Dokmai Garden we
moved her three times until we found a place of her liking: under a fairly
light but evergreen longan tree facing north, in an area watered every
Although a plant is not aware of your existence, seeing her thrive and
knowing it is thanks to your care makes your heart glow.
The wild jade vine is only found along rivers and ravines in the forests of
Luzon, Mindoro and Catanduanes islands of the Philippines. It is endangered
in the wild due to the destruction of its forests. The pollination is taken
care of by nectar bats, but if you lack those you can try to pollinate by
hand. We shall observe whether or not Dokmai Garden’s many sunbirds may play
a role too. We ask our readers in India and Southeast Asia to report fruit
formation in their gardens. Another way of propagation is by taking cuttings
in the rainy season. Unfortunately, outside its native forests the selective
forces are different, so even if the vine reproduces in a few gardens, those
seedlings will be different from the wild forms. The recent decision of the
Philippine government to allow free contraceptives shows a promising, modern
and rational thinking to create a sustainable and beautiful world.
The jade vine was described by Asa Gray in 1854. He was an American
physician and botanist who founded the botanical department at Harvard
University, and helped Charles Darwin to develop his theory on evolution.
Gray’s Latinized Greek name ‘macrobotrys’ means ‘large grape cluster’ and
refers to the jade vine’s fruits. The genus name ‘strongylodon’ was coined
by the German botanist Theodor Vogel, and refers to the rounded calyx teeth
(‘strongylos’ means ’round’ and ‘odontos’ means ‘tooth’). In the picture
above the calyx is the structure looking like a grey lipstick’s handle.
Vogel was a devoted botanist and died of dysentery during an expedition to
Bioko island in West Africa, only 29 years old.
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