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.
Kew's jade vine
Kew has jade vines in the Princess of Wales Conservatory and in the Asia, Australasia and Pacific section of the Palm House’s North Wing.
Each stem can exceed a metre in length and display more than 90 flowers. The plant grows wild in the Philippines, scrambling up other tropical rainforest species to reach the light. It is pollinated naturally by bats, which are attracted by the copious amounts of nectar its flowers produce.
Kew’s specimen in the Palm House, where there are no bats so it has to be pollinated by hand, set seed and produced fruits in 1995, for the first time in 32 years. Its elongated fruits can grow to the size of melons. Encouraging the plant to set seed is important as destruction of the rainforests means it is now threatened in its native habitat.
Kew’s plant generally flowers every two or three years, an event that delights staff and visitors alike. The vine grows very rapidly, and has to be regularly pruned by Kew staff to stop it smothering the plants around it.