Another entry from Taisha today. She writes:
Stauntonia hexaphylla is a member of the Lardizabalaceae. The photographs show some of the fruit produced by the plants here at UBC Botanical Garden this past autumn (additional photographs of Stauntonia hexaphylla available via Wikimedia Commons). Daniel’s longest lens was used to photograph the fruits on the vine in the third photograph, since no fruits were lower than ~8m (26 ft.) above ground level.
It took a while before the Lardizabalaceae was proposed as its own family in 1821, given that the first member of the family was described and published in 1779. Prior to the 1821 publication, species were placed in the Dioscoreaceae, Menispermaceae and even Fabaceae. Stauntonia was first recognized as its own genus in 1817 (published 1818) by De Candolle and thought to be closely related to Lardizabala for many years. Recently, it has been recognized that Stauntonia is more closely related to the genus Akebia (e.g., Akebia quinata). For a recent account of the family, see Christenhusz. 2012. An overview of Lardizabalaceae. Curtis’s Botanical Magazine. 29(3):235-276.
Stauntonia hexaphylla is native to most of Japan, although is now cultivated and found in gardens around the world. Here at UBC Botanical Garden, we have three or four individual plants in the David C. Lam Asian Garden. According to Douglas Justice (UBCBG’s Associate Director, Collections & Horticulture), these twining vines have flowered regularly and copiously over the last 15 years or so. However, 2013 was the first year that fruit were noticed, despite multiple clones and plenty of pollinators visiting the bell-shaped flowers at anthesis.
Douglas has a few hypotheses for the surprise of the small purple edible fruit (I tried a bite of one–the texture of the flesh is a little like dragonfruit except slimier, and has a sweet, yet subtle, flavour). Douglas mentions that this species isn’t particularly hardy, and there could be a developmental problem associated with fruit formation at cooler temperatures here in Vancouver. Other possibilities he suggests include plants in the garden possibly not producing female flowers until now (Stauntonia hexaphylla is typically monoecious), or viable pollen has not been produced in the past. For now, the rare occurrence of fruits on the vines here at UBC is still a mystery, with more investigation and observation needed to determine why they may have appeared this past autumn.