Chocolate vine

Chocolate vine is a semi-evergreen woody climbing plant.   When the stem becomes old, it turns woody.   It is distributed to Japan, Korean Peninsula and China.

This plant has alternate leaves which are a palmate leaf with five leaflets.   The leaflet is entirely, oblong-obovate and is three to six centimeters in length.   Its relatives, Mitsuba-Akebi (A. trifoliata (Thunb.) Koidz.), has a palmately trifoliolate leaf and its flower is dark purple.   Chocolate Vine and Mitsuba-akebi sometimes grow together to form a hybrid, Goyo-akebi (A. x pentaphylla (Makino) Makino).

Chocolate vine is monoecism, diclinism and its flower blooms from April to May.   The raceme droops among leaves.   Many male flowers bloom at its base and a few female flowers bloom at its tip.   The male flower is 1.0 to 1.6 centimeters in diameter and its flower stem is 1.0 to 2.0 centimeters in length.   The female flower is larger than the male flower and is 2.5 to 3.0 centimeters in diameter and its flower stem is 4.0 to 5.0 centimeters in length.   Both male flower and female flower does not have petals and contain three sepals which are dark purple and look like petals.   The male flower has six dark purple stamens which resemble triangular wedges of a tangerine and the female flower has six dark purple pistils which are cylindrical and radial like a bundle of bananas.

The fruit is a sap fruit which is born in Autumn, is oblong and five to ten centimeters in length.   It swells quickly to change its color when its original color, green, starts fading and from September to October, it ripens into purple and splits lengthwise to show many seeds.   The seed is five to seven millimeters in diameter and is black to blackish brown.   The placenta around the seed ripens into sarcocarp which is sweet and jelly-like.   The sarcocarp is eaten by animals to contribute to semination.

The vine-like stem of Chocolate vine and Mitsuba-akebi is used for herbal medicine called Mokutsu (Akebia Stem).   Mokutsu contains Triterpenoid Saponins, akeboside, and is compounded into herbal medicines which is used for diuretic and antiphlogistic.   On the other hand, there is a confusing herbal medicine, Kanmokutsu.   Kanmokutsu is not plants belonging to the genus Akebia but the one belonging to the genus Aristolochia.   Those contain Aristolochic acid which causes kidney disorder. In China, Kanmokutsu is sometimes used as Mokutsu.   Therefore it is necessary to pay full attention.

Chocolate vine from Yamagata prefecture dominates Japanese market and dominates nation's total amount of production.   Murayama area and Okitama area are main producing districts.   Chocolate vine is classified into fruits.   However, the spout is used for food in Spring, the fruit and its skin is used for food in Autumn, and the vine is used for craftwork.

Classification: Lardizabalaceae Akebia
Scientific name: Akebia quinata (Houtt.) Decne.
Japanese name: Akebi
English Name: Chocolate vine
Native locality: Japan and Southeast Asia
Ecological description: Deciduous climbing shrub
RDB : ---
Planting place: Yayu-en
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