U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8b. Sunset climate zone 5

Thursday, May 7, 2009

This Plant Is A WWII Hero. (Vine For Shade)

The moment I saw it, I recognized it. It's like meeting an old friend in a place where you never expected to see them. The name in a catalogue said nothing, but the picture... It couldn't be a mistake! Everyone in the Russian Far East knows this plant. It's called Limonnik (from the word Limon - Lemon). Its fully ripe, sun-dried fruit is used medicinally.

It has a mixture of sour, sweet, salty, hot, and bitter tastes. This unusual combination of flavors is reflected in its Chinese name wu-wei-zi, meaning "five-taste fruit". Other names of Schisandra chinensis are "Wu-wei-zi", "Schisandra japonica", "Maximowiczia chinensis" and "Kadsura chinensis", Magnolia Vine, O Mi Cha.
My family had it growing in our summer garden in Russia, and I remember chewing its berries and adding its leaves to teas. It's popular to add the berries to vodka which gives it a pleasant lemon taste. Limonnik vodka and Limonnik Balsam can be bought in stores.
After seeing it in a catalog, I bought our first plant in the Raintree nursery in Morton, WA five years ago. Since then, I've never seen a sign of disease or pest damage on it - only healthy, fresh-looking leaves, vigorous growth, pleasant lemon aroma.

It grew for a couple years in a pot, then I transferred it to the ground. The plant loved it! I didn't have many berries; however, just a few. I read that it has more berries if grown in the sun.

This spring, I bought a second plant in Christianson's nursery. It's also healthy and fresh looking. Just watching it grow makes me happy.

In Russia and Europe, the initial description of S.c. appeared in the first half of the 19th century. It was done by botanist Tourchaninov N.C. In 1895, botanist Komarov V.L. wrote down stories told by aborigines of the Russian Far East about S.c. berries. For long trips, fishermen, hunters and trappers didn't take a lot of food, but just a handful of dried berries. Those berries helped them to stay energetic and have sharp vision (eye) without feeling tired and hungry for the whole day. The first serious study in Russia was conducted in 1942 and resulted in providing S.c. medicine to military hospitals to treat injured soldiers. The effect of those berries was so strong that it was given to sharpshooters, scouts and pilots of night bombers.
After saying this, it was interesting for me to read the following on the Internet: "Of particular interest are studies showing the beneficial effects of schisandra chinensis on healthy subjects. Administration of schisandra chinensis to road-transport drivers, aircraft pilots, seamen, and athletes has been found to permit them to maintain a high level of physical performance in stressful conditions. It has been proven to result in increased attention, improved endurance, and rapid recovery of strength following exertion."

The Chinese knew about S.c. qualities at least 15 thousand years ago. It's the second most popular herb, after ginseng, in China. In old times, it had to be included when taxes were paid to an emperor.In the days of the Dynasties, S.c. berries were highly valued for their ability to preserve a youthful appearance. It was said to help one become radiant.

Schizandra is considered to be a mood elevator, capable of increasing mental clarity, thereby helping one experience a happier and healthier lifestyle.
In the early 1980s, Chinese doctors began researching Schizandra Berry as a treatment for hepatitis, and it is now recognized as an "adaptogen," capable of increasing the body's resistance to stress and disease.

I made some research and found out that they sell capsules and schizandra berry tincture in the U.S., claiming that Schizandra Fruit helps the body adapt to stress and nourishes the nervous system.

The description in the Raintree nursery catalog says: "Lemon Scented Chinese Import. Eastern Prince Magnolia Vine. (Schizandra chinesis). This lovely fruiting vine comes to us from the mountains of China and the Russian Far East. It does well in moist shady places where few fruit plants thrive but it will also grow in full sun. It produces large clusters of bright yellow-orange one-inch oblong fruit. The leaves have a lemon scent. The fruits are acid and very aromatic. They are dried and used in medicinal teas. Or, sweetened, the fruits are used to make a juice or preserve that is said to be stimulating and energy restoring. Grow on a trellis, arbor or similar structure. The fragnant white flowers are self-fertile and fruits should begin to appear in about three years.
USDA Zones 4-8."

In the U.S., there are many variants growing in the Carolina's, Georgia, Florida and other states.
More information is here:

I devote this post to my Mother who loved this plant. I also devote it to the 64th anniversary of the end of World War II. My Mom lost two brothers in that war. She, herself, was too young to remember much about the war, but she remembered that people gave whatever money or gold they had to the defense fund. She also told us that when they had nothing to eat, they made soup from a plant, one of the varieties of Atriplex (sorry, I don't know its English name, but it's related to a goosfoot).
There is no family in Russia that didn't lose someone between 1941 and 1945.
They all are remembered now when Russian people celebrate the 9th of May that is called the Victory Day in the Great Patriotic War.
***Copyright TatyanaS


  1. Hi Tatyana

    I know that Russian losses during WWII were simply enormous and it is sad to hear that there wasn't one family untouched.


  2. Tatanya,
    I loved reading about this plant and the history that ties into it.
    Have a memorable 9th of May, and wonderful weekend.

  3. That was absolutely fascinating, thanks. And having just read Stalingrad I have some sympathy with your last paragraph .

  4. AnonymousMay 07, 2009

    Hi Tatyana~~ Your words are so poignant. The war must have been so devastating for so many of your people. May 9th is a good day.

    A few years ago my family and I came upon an old WWII military cantonment about five miles from here. It's now a wildlife area. All that remains are the cement roadways and cement foundations for the hundreds of buildings that at one time held young service men as they were training for combat duty. A local author, a small boy during that time, wrote a book about it all. It really opened my eyes to the tremendous human sacrifice of so many.

    I didn't know the Magnolia Vine was edible. Very interesting. Have you heard of One Green World nursery? They specialize in unusual edibles from all over the world. Many from Russia and China. Thanks to them, I'm now growing honeyberry and goji berry plants.

    Again, beautiful words.

  5. Hi Tatyana, thanks for a very interesting post. I wonder if it would be possible to find that plant here - have to such for it I think. Have a nice spring day / gittan

  6. Tatyana .. This has been an amazing post. I too search intently for herbs that can help with my condition .. the latest being "horsetail or Equisetum arvense". The properties of silica and its role for aiding our bodies survival".
    I am very interested in what you have posted here and I understand your dedication. I am a military wife and have felt that impression of loss due to exposure and experience in the field of war.
    You have made an impact on me and I thank you for this information : )

  7. What a great post. I have never heard of this plant but it looks like it will grow in my zone, I may have to search one out. It is also very pretty so it isn't just functional.

  8. What a great post- I loved learning about this plant and its importance to you and your family!

  9. I'd never heard of this vine before. It's very pretty and has a very interesting story to go along with it.

  10. Thanks Tatyana. I'll have to keep watch for that plant. Very interesting post-both horticulturely and historically. Thank You. Dirt Princes has a great post today also.

  11. I'll have to tell my husband the psychiatrist about this plant. It is quite beautiful! Wouldn't it be nice if all those athletes had this instead of steroids?

  12. Tatyana,
    Very interesting post, I will remember your story, it is a great plant with berries and almost disease free.

  13. I want one just for the look of the berries. I'm too lazy to want more energy.

  14. That war really wasn't very long ago. Sometimes, though, it's easy to forget we are still living in its shadow. Despite that, it's still incredible how the different nations have also been able to move forward since then.


  15. Hi Tatyana~

    What a touching post! I am so glad you found this plant for yourself!
    The berries on the vine are an exquisite red and the medicinal value of the plant is quite interesting.

  16. It's very true I think that we are still in the shadow of WWII (in fact, I think we're in the shadow of WWI still, too); it's sad but good to remember that.

    I had known of many of the Chinese medicinal uses of schizandra, but hadn't heard about its use in Russia. I've also never seen schizandra growing and appreciated the full description.

    Raintree and One Green World are great sources for unusual and often medicinal plants. Goodwin Creek is another one.

  17. Hi Tatyana, I love it when a plant takes you to a special memory. It's great that you were able to find it and have it prosper in your garden..great the post!
    :) Lynn

  18. AnonymousMay 10, 2009

    Hi Tatyana, thanks so much for visiting my blog, and I love your dog! Will watch your blog from now on as we garden in such different places and that's always so interesting for me. Ps. I love Atriplex and plant it in borders as it makes a lovely tall architectural feature!

  19. Wow, what a story !
    I found your entire post intriguing.
    Thanks for sharing this one.

  20. Interesting story, sad to the end, but also true and emotional.

  21. Tatyana,
    What an interesting post!! Thank you for sharing. Also, I just love your photos from the North Cascades. I grew up in Washington, and get homesick for that area from time to time. :)

  22. I'm too late to remember on 9th May, and too young to be a part of the war. But my grandfather was a captain (merchant navy) of a ship in the disastrous PQ17 convoy to Murmansk. His ship was bombed but all his crew were saved. They landed their lifeboats in Russia and endured hardships along with the Russian people at that time, and they eventually made it home safely. He was awarded a medal for that. He never talked about these things - I read them in a book. I have his medal though. The Lloyd's medal for bravery. My mother was in the bombings in Glasgow. Her husband died in the war. All I know about it is we got good food when I grew up in the 50s, free orange juice and vitamins from the government - making up for all the years of rationing I suppose. Thanks for the thoughts - it's good to remember and think on these things. You never know where a garden blog will take you!

  23. AnonymousMay 12, 2009

    I have a special place in my heart for WWII veterans, my grandfather was one. This is great information. Thanks.


Thank you for stopping by and for your comment! I appreciate your time! See you soon on your blog!

Blog Archive

Search This Blog

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...



Abyssinian Banana Actaea s. Agapanthus Agressive plants Alaska Amaryllis Amur Maple Aquilegia Aralia Arizona Arundel Castle Gardens Autumn Bainbridge Island Gardens Before and After Berry Bird Houses Bloedel Reserve Blotanical Blue Poppy Book review Botanical Gardens Bouquets Butchart Gardens California Calla Canada Chanticleer Garden Clematis Coleus Colonial Gardens Conifers Containers Corydalis Dahlia Dan Klennert Desert Landscape DIG Dogs Dry creek bed Duris Cucumber Farm Elandan Gardens End of Month View England English Gardens Euphorbia Eze France Exotic garden Fall garden Far Reaches Farm Favorite plants Favorite plants. Tree Philodendron Fences Foliage Formal gardens Foxglove France Frankfurt Botanical Garden Front Garden Fuchsia Garden decor Garden elements Garden Tour Garden works Gardening Tips Gardens of nature Gardens to see Gardens to see (tours) Geraniums Germany GH Garden Tour Giveaway Giverny Gossler Farms Nursery Grasses Great Dixter Greenhouse gunnera Hampton Court Hawaii Garden Hellebores Herbs and Vegetables Heronswood Hidcote History of gardening Holidays Hops Hosta Hydrangea Illumination Italy Japanese maple Kew Lakewold Gardens Lavatera Lavender Leucosceptrum stellipilum ‘Ogon' Little and Lewis Garden Lobelia tupa Meconopsis Melianthus major Minter Gardens Missouri Botanical Garden Mount Vernon My Garden My Open Garden MY PICTURE OF THE DAY Neighborhood NPA Open Gardens NWFGS Old Goat Farm Orchids Oregon PalmenGarten Pampas grass Peony Perennials Plant ID Poppy Problem areas Recipes Rhododendron Rock garden Romneya c. Russia and Russian Art Sarah P. Duke Gardens Serre de la Madone (Lawrence Johnston) Shade Garden Shayne Chandler Garden Shrubs Sissinghurst Sky Watch Slope garden Slugs Spring/Summer garden Stachys Succulents Summer/Fall garden Texas Arboretum The Garden of Great Depression Tree Peony Trees Trips Tulip Festival Uncategorized Vegetable garden Vegetables Villa Cimbrone WA Weigela Wells Medina Nursery White garden Wild animals Wild flowers Windcliff Wineries Winter and winter garden Wordless Wednesday Yang's Garden and Nursery
Copyright 2009-2020 TatyanaS, MySecretGarden Blog