Improvement status: Unknown
Seeds per packet: ~20 (15 berries, w/ 1-3 seeds per berry)
BOTANICAL SAMPLE - NOT GERMINATION TESTED
Life cycle: Perennial
Southern magnolia vine is the lesser-known but similarly potent Schisandra berry plant used in traditional chinese medicine. Also called "na wu wei zi", this Schisandra species is also used for food, medicine, wine, vinegar, and soap. It's a perennial vine hardy to Zone 7 at least, and probably most of Zone 6.
Both species of Schisandra (sphenanthera and the more common chinensis) are perennial woody vines native to temperate and subtropical East Asia. The bright red berries with a unique flavor are used fresh or most often dried as both a flavoring and an herbal medicine. The name "Five Flavor Berry" comes from the complex nature of the berry's taste, combining sweet, sour, bittrer, salty, and pungent flavors. In traditional Chinese medicine, Schisandra chinensis is called "wu wei zi" and is used much like ginseng or reishi mushroom, as a general tonic for everyday use, but it is also used specifically for stomach and liver problems (and recent studies have have demonstrated a likely ability to aid the liver and nervous system specifically). Modern herbalists consider it an "adaptogen," reducing physical and mental stress and increasing energy. Scientific studies are beginning to show that this powerful plant. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has a webpage chronicling the various studies showing it may have great potential for people suffering from cancer or going through a liver transplant. Schisandra sphenanthera likely has similar uses, but it has a unique chemical profile so surely there is even more to be learned about this lesser-known cousin.
We're offering whole dried berries imported from China by the good folks at Sheffield's Seed Company in Locke, NY. Seeds may be removed from fruit before use, or planted whole.
Photo credit: Triptych photo taken from "Sustainable harvest, people and pandas: Assessing a decade of managed wild harvest and trade in Schisandra sphenanthera," JA Brinckmann, W. Luo, Q. Xu, and X. He, June 2018, Journal of Ethnopharmacology 244(85) DOI:10.1016/j.jep.2018.05.042 CC BY 4.0
GROWING TIPS: Schisandra is typically a dioecious plant (meaning nearby pollen-bearing plants are necessary for fruit-bearing plants to set fruit). Schisandra wants to climb, so it should be provided with a permanent arbor or trellis, or a fence or a wall or a row of sparsely-branched trees. It prefers an edge habitat, with some sunlight and some shade, but is adaptable, especially in northern areas. In places with hot summers, it will benefit from more protection from the sun. Berries should be harvested when fully ripe and can be used fresh or dried for future use. For germination, cold stratify for 90 days (or start outdoors in the fall). Soak in water for 24 hours before planting. Sow 1/4" deep.