Growing in the wet rainforests of the Philippines, jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys) is a spectacular perennial woody climber that can grow up to 20 meters in length. A member of the bean family (Fabaceae), jade vine produces pendulous claw-shaped flowers which have a unique turquoise or green-bluish colour, with each individual flower about 8 - 13 cm long. Each inflorescence can grow up to 3 meters in length, producing hundreds of individual flowers. The leaves are trifoliolate, which means each leaf has three leaflets.
This magnificent vine is pollinated by bats which are attracted to the flowers at twilight, when their pale turquoise color makes them stand out in the low light. Hanging upside down, bats force their heads into the individual flowers to reach for the sweet and sticky nectar. In the process, their heads are dusted with pollen which is then transferred to the female parts of the next flowers they visit. Once pollinated and fertilized, the flowers develop large, fleshy pods up to 15cm long. In cultivation where bats are absent, hand pollination between flowers from different plants is the only way to promote fruit development.
Assessed to be vulnerable in the wild due to anthropogenic activities such as deforestation, the jade vine is also prized as an ornamental plant due to the distinctive colour of its flowers.
Do come down and head over to the Tree Top Walk at Cloud Forest to marvel at these uncommon flowers, blooming right in time for the opening of our new Avatar: The Experience exhibit!
Written by: Arthur Voo, Senior Research Executive (Research and Horticulture)
Arthur has been working closely with plants for more than 10 years, whether in a park, nature reserve or glasshouse. These days, if he isn’t taking care of plants in the glasshouses, he likes to spend his time hiking and looking for interesting plants in the wild.