Schisandra sphenanthera

This photo of Schisandra sphenanthera was taken in the David C. Lam Asian Garden at the UBC Botanical Garden. The genus Schisandra is comprised of 23 species of climbing vines, most of which are distributed around east Asia. This woody climber is native to China and can be found in these provinces: Anhui, Gansu, Guizhou, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Sichuan, northeast Yunnan, and Zhejiang. Plants grows in forested thickets, usually between 700 to 2000 meters in elevation, although they are occasionally found lower or much higher (to 5100m). The species is commonly dioecious, with flowers on female plants having 5-8 tepals and 30-50 ovaries. Flowers on the male plants usually have 5-8 tepals with 11-19 stamens. It is thought that Schisandra sphenanthera is capable of monoecy (like some other members of Schisandra) depending on environmental conditions and hormonal factors, but evidence confirming this suspicion doesn’t yet seem to be recorded in the literature (see: Systematic Botany Monographs, Volume 58: Monograph of Schisandra (Schisandraceae), by Richard M. K. Saunders for more information on this genus and its reproductive tendencies).

Schisandra sphenanathera is perhaps best known for its medicinal qualities. It has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine practice and it continues to be used today to treat asthma, cough, night sweats, anxiety, insomnia, and amnesia. Plants are highly regarded for their ascorbic acid (vitamin C), fatty oils, volatile oils, and lignans. The fruit and seeds are the main medicinal components of the plant. The bright red fruits develop in dense clusters on an elongated stalk and are considered edible both raw and cooked, however they are most commonly used when dried.

In 2007, China exported over 1000 tonnes of dried Schisandra sphenanathera to foreign markets, mainly in Japan, Korea and Singapore. The economic value of Schisandra sphenanthera has shown to significantly increase the standard of living for rural communities that pick the fruit. However, as result of a large demand for these species, they are under a significant amount of pressure from harvest in the wild. Such is the dilemma with so many other species of economic value; see :Towards a sustainable livelihood with wild medicinal resources (PDF download).

Gall midges (Cecidomyiidae) have been observed to be the primary pollinators for most populations of Schisandra sphenanthera in the wild. The gall midges are attracted to the pollen on the stamens of the male flowers and appear to visit female flowers because of deceit. For additional reading, see Wei, D.U. et al. 2012. Deceit pollination and the effect of deforestation on reproduction in dioecious Schisandra sphenanthera (Schisandraceae) in central China. Journal of Systematics and Evolution. 50(1) 36-44. doi:10.1111/j.1759-6831.2011.00171.x

As far as cultivation goes, this species of Schisandra is fairly hardy and tolerates below freezing temperatures quite well. Plants prefer spotty shade with exposure to sun for some portions of the day when the light is not at full intensity. They require rich well-drained soil and prefer slightly acidic conditions, although they can tolerate neutral or slightly basic soils.

Schisandra sphenanthera

4 responses to “Schisandra sphenanthera”

  1. phillip

    …Beautiful…!…i’m sorry…but the first thing that popped into my mind was…’buddy…ya got a light..?’

  2. Wendy Cutler

    I’m so glad you posted this. I tried to photograph it on my last two visits with no success at all. I can give up now. It’s right at the south side entrance to the tunnel and is so appealing. Interesting to read more about it here.

  3. elizabeth a airhart

    i live in the states and all manner of plants are now being used
    one really needs to be careful what one takes into one’s body
    it can really hurt you or some one else thank you

  4. J. Martin

    Great shot!

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