Latin For Botany, Growing Kiwi, Artichoke YCH#24



One may ask, “Why bother to learn any Latin?” I would like to learn it to help identify plants. Latin names give information about plant histories, native habitats and how to grow them.  A plant may have many common names, but only one Latin name.  This is it’s true botanical name.  One thing  like about Latin names is since Latin is a dead language, you don’t have to worry so much about mispronunciation.  So no one can pick at me about my “Redneck Latin”.  If one obtains a plant with the botanical name, you could be sure you have the correct plant. There are two parts – the GENUS (genera is plural for genus) is the family name.  It is capitalized.  An example would be ALLIUM.  This would be the family of cultivated onions.  Another is CUCURBITACEAE –  squash family.  This family (collection of related genera) contains CUCUBITA (squash and pumpkins), CITRULLUS (watermelons), and CUCUMIS  (melons and cucumbers).  The genus (family name) is abbreviated ( ALLIUM would be A.) if mentioned a times in a series.  The second name is the species.  Where  as the GENUS is noun, species would be a descriptive adjective. Sometimes a third name is added for further description.  For example: Acer palmatum dissectum _ Acer is maple;   palmatum describes it as ” shaped  like a hand”; dissectum is finely dissected.  This is the name for Japanese maple.  A capitalized name in quotation marks represents a hybrid plant.


Kiwi or Chinese gooseberry is native to southern China, growing wild in the hills and bushes.  kiwi was brought to the US, UK, and New Zealand around 1900-1910.  In 1930 they were grown commercially in New Zealand.  The genus is Actinidia and they have over 50 species.  Some examples are:

A. deliciosa – A commercial variety also known as ” Hayward – the female variety”  It is fuzzy brown with good fruit that keeps up to 6 months.  It is tart sweet and commonly grown in California.  It is hardy to 10 degrees F.

A. aruguta is hardy to -25 degrees F. it is commonly grown in the west by home gardeners.  This is known as the hardy kiwi.  It is a cousin of A.chinesis; and native to northeastern Asia. A. chinesis is native to southern China.  It is smaller, about  the size of a cherry.  The skin is smooth and edible.  Fruit is green yellow and acidic when unripe.  When ripe, it is considered superior.  A. kolomita is another cold hardy fruit.  Neither of these are grown commercially.

All actinidia are sensitive to frost when young.  They can be damaged by even 30 F.  Spring frost can damage the flower buds.  The trunks can also be damaged by frost and need protection. They need 220 days of a frost free growing season.  Kiwis often die the first season due to poor drainage or frost damage. They can, however be grown in 5 gallon buckets the first year.  This would solve the drainage problem and they could easily be tented for frost protection.  The roots must also be protected from freezing.  A planting site must have protection from wind and good drainage.  Ph needs to be around 6.5 and they can be planted 15-18 ft apart.  A male pollinator is needed for  8 female plants.  Fertilize with 2-4 oz slow release 10-10-10 fertilizer at planting time.  After that twice a year in spring and early June. One kiwi plant can  produce up to 200 pounds of fruit, so a  strong trellis is needed.  6 inch posts 6 ft high are good.  You will need strong 18 -12 guage wire. They need to be cross braced for added strength.  Young plants need to be trained up the trellis. A single shoot running up.  Don’t allow it to wrap around the post.  On top of trellis train to center in one direction.  Next year train a long center wire in the opposite direction.  “Permanent leaders”of the lateral canes will produce fruit the following year.  When pruning leave the main leaders, replace all other wood yearly for better production.  Plants usually fruit in their 4th year and reach full production by the eighth  year.  They can live 50  years or more,

Kiwis can be propagated from hard wood cutting – after 500 chill hours, softwood cuttings in July, by air layering, and from seed.

Hardy Kiwi fruit matures in October, so may be picked earlier to avoid frost.  They may be ripened in the refrigerator, but with a shorter storage life than the fuzzy kiwi.

Kiwi is considered a very healthy food.  High in vitamin C, beta carotenes, a variety of flavenoids carotenoids and phytonutrients.  It has an ability to protect DNA from oxygen related damage.  It’s fiber is good for decreasing cholesterol, preventing heart disease, stabilizing blood sugar, and preventing colon cancer by removing toxins.  A published study of 18,00 children showed improvement from asthma after 5-7 servings of kiwi per week.  Of course the one you grow at home would be fresher with much better with more antioxidants.


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