Cathy Wright and I returned from a trip to the USSR on August 25. We visited horticultural research stations in Novosibirsk (Vasknil Agricultural Institute and the Soviet All Union Academy of Science), Barnaul (The Lisavenko Research Institute), Gorno-Altaisk and Chimal (Mountain Experiment Station) and the Moscow Botanical Garden. We collected nearly 150 different species of fruits and ornamentals, mostly as seeds, for testing in Alaska. Presently, the seeds are being inspected at the USDA Plant Inspection Station in Seattle. We also established contacts with research scientists who are working in many areas of fruit breeding and culture. In the next few newsletters, we will try to share with you some of our experiences.
One NAFEX member asked us to collect some seeds or cuttings of a plant called Schisandra chinensis We inquired about this plant at most of our locations, but saw only one plant at the Botanical Garden in Novosibirsk. The weather there seemed milder than most of interior and southcentral Alaska, and the growers had a very difficult time keeping this one plant alive. They call it 5-flavor fruit, but our guide only mentioned 4 flavors: the skin is sweet, the flesh, sour; the seeds, bitter; and when processed, the sauce is salty. In Siberia it is known as a medicinal plant for disorders of the nervous system. At the research stations south of Novosibirsk where they were growing plums and apricots, no-one was growing this plant. The plant at the Botanical Garden was is poor condition, and we could not get cuttings or seeds, but we will try to request seeds from the very large Botanical Garden in Moscow for future testing in south central and southeast Alaska. Below is a description of this plant compiled by Leslie Toombs.
Latin Name: Schisandra chinensis
Common Name: Chinese Magnolia Vine
OriginNorth: east Asia and Japan
Lowest Zone: 5
Climbing Method: twining
Soils: fertile, well drained
Sun/Shade: Prefers some shade.
Special Features : Attractive foil, fragrant flowers. edible fruit.
Description: Leaves oblong, elliptic to 4 inches, glossy, denticulate or serrate white or Flowers fragrant, ½ to 1 ½, white or pinkish. Very brief flowering period. Berries edible, red, to 3/8, 6 to 23 per bunch. Male and female flowers on separate plants, both must be present for fruiting. Hardiest variety of the species.
Why Selected: Despite this rather nebulous resource information, the Actinidia Enthusiast’s Newsletter Indicates that this vine is grown for food in the Soviet Union. According to Mr. Plocher whom I wrote in Minnesota, the plant prefers cool, wet summers, shade and “according to horticultural literature” grows to the treetops in Siberia.
Site Selection: Next to deck for flower fragrance, bird attraction to fruits. North side of fence, so base is always shaded. Negative: Snow very slow to melt here.
Disadvantages: Excessive cost. (Uncommon plant) In fact, Disadvantages these are priced beyond my reach. I am looking for seed, but haven’t found any sources yet. Any ideas?
Cost: $25/seedlings $40/cuttings grown s & h:25% plus $8 per plant 2nd day air
Source: Louisiana Nursery
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