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Schisandra

Schisandra chinesis - Chinese magnolia vine

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The thin shoots of the Chinese magnolia vine wind themselves round any available support like corkscrews. When they reach the top, they twist around each other and then begin to hang downwards. The June flowering is not very noticeable, but in autumn the orange-red berries glow against the background foliage, which turns pale yellow or white. The berries persist after leaf fall.

This species is usually dioecious (i.e. individual plants are either male or female) but occasionally a single vine can surprise by bearing berries, which are very acid. The Chinese call this vine “the berry of 5 flavours”, and the fruit are widely used in medication, in wines and juices, and as tea. To Finnish tastes they are sharp and strongly herbal in flavour, especially if the bitter seeds are chewed. The taste softens after freezing, and jellies produced from the berries can add a piquant touch to game dishes.

The Chinese magnolia vine produces root suckers from which new plants can be raised. Growing from seed is also easy. Plants have been grown at Mustila since the 1990s, from different provenances. The largest vine is in Alppiruusulaakso (Rhododendron Valley) and has had to be kept in check to prevent it smothering its neighbours. Usually the vine is grown up a trellis but also looks attractive growing freely among the dark green branches of a spruce.

 

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