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We love the jade vine!

February 19, 2013

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.

Strongylodon macrobotrys buds closeup.72The Dokmai Garden jade vine when budding.

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.

Strongylodon macrobotrys longan litter.Feb.23.2013.72

An exceptionally beautiful litter….

Text & Photo: Eric Danell

3 Comments leave one →
  1. marcel Prahin permalink
    February 19, 2013 7:10 PM

    Hi Eric,

    First thank you for all these everyday detailed infos on plants but also of the botanic, history and so on.
    I just checked the picture to find out that I knew that plant but now I learn also its name.
    After a visit in Korat province at Wang Nam Kiaw to be exact. My wife found some green-blue and orange species(at least it look like very similar). In fact this plant is the most famous and planted one in that Moo ban area and all houses have at least one plant. They had many small and medium size to sell and my wife bring both color which we planted in our Phuket garden where it grows still. No flower yet as we just planted it last August.
    Have a green day

  2. February 24, 2013 6:31 AM

    Thank you for sharing such fascinating info. I don’t think i’ve even heard of this vine before now!
    Beautiful colored flowers!

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