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How does your garden grow?  
By Eric Danell, Dokmai Garden


The Jade Vine

The jade 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 second day.
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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The Jade Vine