I was lucky enough to be wandering through the Centenary Greenhouse at the Royal Horticultural Societies Wisley Gardens the other day, when one plant totally took my breath away.
It is a plant that I had read about but never seen, Strongylodon macrobotrys.
Strongylodon macrobotrys is a native of the Philippines, and is a member of the pea and bean family. A climbing plant it can reach over 15m in length given good growing conditions.
According to Kew Gardens, the jade vine was first seen by westerners in 1854 by botanists who were members of the US Wilkes Exploring Expedition. They were exploring the dipterocarp forest of Mount Makiling on Luzon, the largest and most northern island in the Philippines, when they encountered the vine. One can only imagine what must have gone through their mind when confronted with dozens of these flowers, hanging like jade green bunches of grapes from the vine.
The flowers can reach some 3m in length and are made up of some 90 individual flowers which resemble those of peas and beans. Botanically the the flowers are hung in pendant trusses, which are called pseudoracemes.
In the wild the flowers are pollinated by bats, who devour the copious quantities of nectar produced.
Following successful pollination fruits that resemble melons form.
Whilst Strongylodon macrobotrys can be found in many botanical gardens, it is officially classed as vulnerable in the wild, due to the extensive deforestation that has been occurring in the Philippines.
The vine, which has pale green leaves which are about 20 – 25cm long, however it is the stunning jade coloured pseudoracemes that this wonderful plant is grown for.
It can be viewed at Wisely Gardens, The Eden Project and Kew Gardens in the UK.