Actinidia kolomikta (kolomikta vine)
A climber with unusual, variegated leaves, splashed with pink and white, kolomikta vine has small flowers with a fragrance similar to that of lily-of-the-valley.
About this species
Actinidia kolomikta was described as a new species in 1856 by the Russian botanist Carl Johann Maximowicz (1827-1891) from specimens he collected in the northern Amur River valley in Manchuria. The specific epithet derives from the local name for the plant – ‘kolomikta’ or ‘kotomikta’. It was introduced to Great Britain by Charles Maries (1851-1902), an English plantsman who travelled through China and Japan, and sent seeds of A. kolomikta to the Veitch nursery in Chelsea in 1877. However, the climber was already known and grown in France and the United States by then. Actinidia kolomikta is related to the Chinese gooseberry, A. deliciosa, the fruits of which are grown commercially in New Zealand and marketed as kiwi fruits. In Russia in particular, the smaller, edible fruits of A. kolomikta are also popular, but both male and female plants are needed for pollination and the production of fruit.
Geography & Distribution
Native to China (in Chongqing, Gansu, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Hubei, Jiangsu, Jilin, Liaoning, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces), Japan (in the mountains of Hokkaido and Honshu), Korea, and Russia (in east Siberia and Sakhalin Island). It has been found at 1,600–2,900 m above sea level.
Actinidia kolomikta (Image: Martyn Rix)
A deciduous, climbing shrub, with slender, twining branches and heart-shaped green leaves up to around 15 cm long, splashed with pink and white. The small (to about 1 cm long), fragrant, pink or white, pendulous flowers appear from May to July, and are followed in the autumn by greenish-orange fruits up to 2 cm long.
The distinctive leaf-colouring is restricted to the male plants, and is not usually apparent until the plant is several years old, frequently not developing at all if the plant is growing in too much shade.
Illustration from Curtis's Botanical Magazine
Hand-coloured lithograph of Actinida kolomikta by Lilian Snelling (1925), taken from Curtis's Botanical Magazine (Image: RBG Kew)
Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (Editor: Martyn Rix) provides an international forum of particular interest to botanists and horticulturists, plant ecologists and those with a special interest in botanical illustration.
Now well over two hundred years old, the Magazine is the longest running botanical periodical featuring colour illustrations of plants. Each four-part volume contains 24 plant portraits reproduced from watercolour originals by leading international botanical artists. Detailed but accessible articles combine horticultural and botanical information, history, conservation and economic uses of the plants described.
Published for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
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Actinidia kolomikta is widely cultivated as an ornamental in temperate regions. The edible fruits are popular in Russia, where numerous cultivars have been developed for earliness, size, flavour and vitamin C content of the fruits, and plants have been selected for being reliably male or female. In east Asia, the young leaves are used as a pot-herb. Recent laboratory research in China has indicated anti-oxidant and anti-tumour activity in root extracts.
Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage
Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.
Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: One.
Seed storage behaviour: Orthodox? (the seeds of this plant survive drying without significant reduction in their viability, and are therefore amenable to long-term frozen storage such as at the MSB)
Actinidia kolomikta is exceptionally hardy, and can survive temperatures as low as -40°C in Siberia. Domestic cats are attracted to this climber as much as, or more than, catmint (Nepeta species), and can damage the vine.
This species at Kew
Pressed and dried specimens of Actinidia kolomikta are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment. The details, including images, of specimens of other Actinidia species can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.
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