Magnolia Vine (Five Flavor Fruit)

(Schisandra chinensis)

Magnolia Vine immature fruit
Immature fruit of the Magnolia Vine

Cultivar tested

‘Eastern Prince’

Description and site preference

Type and size – deciduous vine, 15 feet or more
Hardiness zone – 4-8
Exposure – full sun
Soil – moist, fertile (high humus)
Drainage – well-drained

Economic factors

Years to harvest – 3-4
Maintenance – needs consistent moisture
Life of planting – 20+ years
Machine harvest potential – minimal
Suitable markets – processed (juices, wines, extracts, sweets)

Dormant Magnolia Vine
Dormant Magnolia Vine

Notable features

Nutritional highlights – superfruit, high in vitamins C & E, minerals and essential oils
Adaptability – poor at test site
Pest issues – none observed
Invasive potential – none
Environmental benefits – unknown

Integration characteristics

Shared management – low, needs specialized management as a vine crop
Shared equipment – minimal, specialized harvesting
Shared processing – medium
Co-marketing – medium to high, similar to other processed fruits

Integration potential

Could be good in some locations. It has not adapted to site conditions at Carandale Farm, but its unusual phytonutrient qualities make it a worthwhile species for trial at other locations.

History and background

This deciduous woody vine is native to forests of Northern China and the Russian Far East. It is considered winter hardy to Zone 4 (-30 degrees F) and prefers a rich, moisture-retentive but well-drained soil, adequately watered during the growing season. It is naturally dioecious, requiring both male and female plants for pollination and fruiting. Breeders in Russia have developed a hybrid selection that is self-fertile, but its seedlings, sometimes sold under the same name, typically revert back to a dioecious state.

The fruit is borne in clusters and look much like red currant. It has all five basic flavors: salty, sweet, sour, pungent (spicy) and bitter; hence in China, it’s commonly called five flavor berry. It is considered to be one of the 50 fundamental herbs in traditional Chinese medicine.

Russian pharmacological studies on animals (Panossian and Wickman, 2008) have shown that the unique phytoadaptive compounds of Magnolia vine increase physical working capacity and afford a stress-protective effect against a broad spectrum of harmful factors. It was used by indigenous Nanai hunters to improve night vision, as a tonic and to reduce hunger, thirst and exhaustion. The fruit is also known to be high in vitamin C, E, minerals and essential oils. The sweetened fruit is used to make juice, preserves and wine.

Observations at Carandale Farm

Eastern Prince, the self-fertile cultivar developed at the Vladivostok Station of the Vavilov Institute in Russia, is being observed in the Carandale test plot. Plants were ordered from Northwoods Nursery (see One Green World) and planted in 2003.

‘Eastern Prince’ was described as a “self-fertile, very productive, vigorous and pest-resistant variety with large tasty fruit” by the Northwoods Nursery catalog. In the Carandale test plot, this species has been persistent but not vigorous. It was originally planted in a location that received about one-half day of sun because it was said to do well in partial shade. In 2008, they replanted in full sun on mounded soil (raised bed), hoping to improve soil drainage. Four out of five plants survived the replanting process but did not show much improved vigor.

The plants put out many short vines and produce a few fruit but never enough to evaluate.

Discussion

Magnolia vine is another unusual fruit from Eastern Asia that does not adapt well to Carandale soils, but it has shown a toughness and persistence that might be exploited to make it adaptable with cost-effective mitigation. With more than 50 species of fruiting perennial plants in the test plot, Carandale does not have the time to give any one species special consideration because adaptability is a key criteria, but this species might warrant an exception.

All fruit and vegetables have unique combinations of phytochemicals that could potentially have nutritional and nutraceuctical value. Combinations and concentrations vary widely, but generally include a familiar series of vitamins, minerals and essential oils necessary for human health and well being. In addition to familiar phytochemicals, Schisandra is the only plant genus that appears to contain compounds with phytoadaptive effects on many systems in the body: the central nervous system, sympathetic, endocrine, immune, respiratory, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal. As benefits of these compounds become better known in the western world, Schisandra could become economically important, deserving of more attention.

References

Wikipedia entry on Magnolia Vine

Dr. Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases: Schisandra chinensis (TURCZ.) BAILL. – Schisandraceae.

Panossian, A. and G. Wickman. 2008. “Pharmacology of Schisandra chinensis Bail.: An overview of Russian research and uses in medicine (review).” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 118 (2), 183-212. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18515024>, accessed 6/21/13.

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