Vines and Other Climbing Plants


Gymnostemma Pentaphyllum – Sweet Tea Vine.

Over thirty species of Gymostemma are known to grow in China with the species Gymnostemma Pentaphyllum having the widest distribution outside China, where it can be found from India to Southeast Asia including also Japan and Korea.
Commonly called the “Sweet Tea Vine,” in English it also has a Chinese name of “Jiaogulan,” that literally means "twisting-vine orchid." As with many Chinese plants its herbal qualities have long been knowm about, but are only now becoming increasingly important with “Western,” medicine companies taking more of an interest. Medical research has revealed many beneficial qualities of Jiaogulan with its Ginseng-like properties such as lowering cholesterol and reducing high blood pressure, strengthening immunity, and inhibiting cancer growth. The whole plant has long been used to make a tea like tonic in China that is even reputed to increase longevity. 

The Sweet Tea Vine belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family, that includes cucumbers, gourds, and melons, although it doesn’t produce the well-known type of fruit. It is a true climbing vine, attaching itself to supports using tendrils, but it will only climb a few metres high. It has serrated leaves that normally grow in groups of five hence the Latin name of “Pentaphyllum,” meaning 5 leaves, although some species can have groups of three, or even seven leaves. The plant grows as either male, or female, so, if seeds are wanted, both a male and female plant must be grown to ensure pollination of the female flowers.
As with most of the Cucurbitaceae family it is normally grown as an annual in Europe where it likes well-drained soil with full sun. However, it is actually a short-lived perennial that does not grow well in cold climates where temperatures drop below freezing.

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