It was few years ago that I first I heard about the Jade Vine, from the legume/bean family & its multinational cousins. I learnt this from my plant guru, the late Dr Achaiah, a walking encyclopedia. I was tagging along with him once so that I could fetch some wild mushrooms. Looking at the bunches of maroon outer & little red flowers hanging around the mango tree, I said these are lovely & looks like the ornamental pieces of a chandeliers. I came up with a suggestion… may be you should make a structure in different sized circles to support the vines to create a natural chandelier & we all can sit under it & drink coffee… he said your wish is not my command you don’t eat my head run along now!!
We both always agreed to disagree on everything yet I followed him ignorant, enthusiastic & eager to learn & he was glad someone was willing to learn… so he explained to me about the four different vines among the many around their mansion.
The second one he told me about also with maroon outer & yellow flowers but with a different look altogether. It had no flower but I knew what he was talking as many of my relatives had it in their homes. Both had their own beauty & the first one is pretty simple like a homeless person goes unnoticed most of the time (figure 1). The second one little more attractive & makes its presence felt once a while (will post the picture when available). I was trying to impress with him with my knowledge of flowers quoting the silver oaks & the orange bunch flower we see at Mysore university campus & then told about the burgundy sausage tree flower. He said that’s all on trees & I am talking about the vine.
Finally when I saw the other two little vines supposed to be floriferous from pea family. They were growing on a pillar, and were actually imported costing a small fortune…. A flower which is going to look like the flower of pea.. & wondered if it is really worth it? They were the Jade vine & Red Jade vine (aka scarlet jade vine & New Guinea creeper) scientifically known as Strongylodon macrobotrys & Mucuna bennettii respectively. Then I mentioned the purple Wisteria flower hanging like grape bunches, also from pea family, which I saw in Niagara Falls the sight of which is enchanting in some Hollywood movies & serials. All the vines are evergreen.
After that first time I saw these flowes, on every subsequent visit to Ashok’s place, I searched for the flowers in vain & finally when I came across the pitcher flower in the nearby pot, wondered what the jade vine would really show case? Finally August… 2014 I got lucky, after a long wait met the fully bloomed Red Jade flowers & the buds of Jade vine.
The RED JADE, she was a beauty in her own rights….. she mesmerized & practically forced me to stand motionless & admire her. Even the pouring rain & cloudy weather could not dampen her spirit & beauty. She was already a month old & in full bloom, a cascading cluster of brilliant red-orange pendulous flowers which looked as if someone had meticulously chained them together to form a raceme…. I have never seen such perfect wholesale orange colour in my life other than the saris… Individual translucent flowers are clawed & the formation looks somewhere between flame of the forest & its cousins coral tree & panivala flower. Her perfect texture with absolutely no blemish on her celluloid boat shaped body which almost gives the feeling it’s not natural & plastic(ky). My husband said it reminded him of the cock’s head & its beak & for me it reminded the beak of a parrot.
It is said to be from New Guinea, I nick named her the middle class beautify, who is here to showcase her beauty & strength… the influence she can have on society!! The striking bright red-orange flower in full bloom could stay around two months (or more). So when the bunch starts blooming from one end to the other, it blooms till the entire bunch is bloomed then is still fresh.. so I guess it’s there for quite a while.
And then I saw the Miss Universe…THE JADE VINE, one of her kind challenging everyone one nearby… the colour of the bud blue/green or turquois or jade or copper oxide or somewhere near aqua… something so uncommon… sorry I am lost & have absolutely no idea! I have seen NATURAL green roses & orchids but absolutely no memory of jade coloured flower. One has to see it to believe its magnanimous size, unusual colour & smooth surface like a baby’s butt… I had to catch hold of my best friend’s handy man Kutty who is 5.1 feet to pose with the bunch so that I can remember the size. It’s almost 5 feet along with the top of the stem as the buds starts from few inches in a bunch. It is still growing like Lord Hanumanji’s tail in Sundarkand of Ramayana, as if to challenge me for questioning her worthyness!! Sadly it seems like the life span of jade flower is shorter than that of the orange & it started falling early… may be the mother is tired of over demanding child!!
Also known as emerald vine & turquoise jade vice, said to be native to forest of Mount Makiling on Luzon, the largest & most northern island in the Philippines (Tayabak), is also found in Hawaii, Jamaica, some warm humid strips of South Africa, etc. It’s hard to say where ANY PLANT species originated as no one has ever explored the entire Universe. Just because someone comes across a particular plant at a particular location at a particular time, they say it’s originated there. It’s like Christopher Columbus calling new world as India & calling the natives Indians!! Moreover they end up putting such difficult scientific name or sadly change the name after the person supposed to have dis-covered… oh boy!
Guess she is not that hard to grown but one has to be patient enough to wait for at least 2 years. Even though the growth seems to be little slow in the beginning, as the vine gets strong foot hold, under healthy conditions the large woody climber creeps generously & if not trained it would climb at its own whims & fancy. Sky is the limit seems to be the mantra for the growth of all the vines. Tender leaves are fragile & it looks glassy & dark somewhere between purplelish (reddish-brown/black) & then it turns to green. The stem is dark brown with finely peeling bark.
Fortunately I got the chance to see both of them this year. This is the second bloom of the vine & absolutely no idea if it is going to have any pods or the seeds this year too. Last years the vine bore few small bunches & no seeds. Ironically even though the tiny little black-ants were milling in & out, I could not see any sign of sweet attraction of the bees or other insects including wasps & not sure if it attracts any birds with long beak like humming bird or nocturnal pollinators like the bats. Since it is not native to South India & with ever dwindling bugs & little birds, whether it calls for hand pollination like the vanilla (see my earlier article) or will it be able to produce pods & seeds has to be seen in time. It is advised to plant male & female vines side by side… well I really can’t identify them!! Sorry folks we cannot give you a plant as this cannot be propagated by cuttings it seems.
Even though I wanted to spend more time with the flowers, I had to bid good bye soon but I am definitely planning to monitor the flower in 2015 from beginning to end, record it & also will write about it along with the pictures in different stages to those who are interested. But if Mother Nature will favor me with a bloom that size in 2015 is a big question mark!! It is said that coffee grounds (used coffee powder) increase the number of bunches… How proud my plant Guru would have been to see the flower if it had bloomed an year earlier…
Note: Unfortunately rather sadly the jade bunch was cut by a naughty child who was visiting just before it bloomed. Hope the vine will be kind enough to grace one more large bunch in the near future.