1. Family: Actinidiaceae Engl. & Gilg
    1. Genus: Actinidia Lindl.
      1. Species: Actinidia chinensis Planch.
        1. Actinidia chinensis var. deliciosa (A.Chev.) A.Chev.

        This attractive climber is grown in temperate gardens for its large heart-shaped leaves and creamy-white, scented flowers, but throughout much of the world it is better known as a commercial fruit.

    [KSP]

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description
    Although native to China, it was commercialisation of this climber in New Zealand (and clever marketing under the name kiwi fruit) that made it the popular and widespread fruit it is today.

    This attractive climber is grown in temperate gardens for its large heart-shaped leaves and creamy-white, scented flowers, but throughout much of the world it is better known as a commercial fruit.

    The species was considered to be a variety of Actinidia latifolia, namely A. latifolia var. deliciosa when first described in 1940 by the French botanist Auguste Jean Baptiste Chevalier (1873–1956). It achieved full species status in 1984 when Liang and Ferguson published the name Actinidia deliciosa but is now referred to as a variety of A. chinensis. Another wild relative, A. kolomikta, also has edible fruits.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Native to China, mainly in the southern and central parts, in mountain forests at 800–1400 m. Actinidia deliciosa is widely cultivated in many countries, including New Zealand, Brazil, Chile and Italy. The most common cultivar in commercial production is ‘Hayward’.

    Description

    Overview: A dioecious (individual plants are either male or female), vigorous woody vine with large, leathery heart-shaped green leaves up to 25 cm across, which turn a reddish colour in autumn.

    Flowers: Creamy-white to yellow, slightly scented and up to around 5 cm across. They are produced in the leaf axils in May–June and pollinated by bees. Female plants bear fruit if pollinated. Self-fertile cultivars have been bred.

    Fruits: The well-known fruit is a brown-skinned, oval berry, up to 8 cm long, covered with fine hairs. The edible flesh is bright green with numerous tiny black seeds.

    The Chinese gooseberry becomes a kiwi

    A New Zealand teacher, Mary Isabel Fraser, is credited with introducing Actinidia deliciosafrom China to her homeland in 1904 after returning from a visit to a Chinese mission in Yichang on the Yangtze River. She arrived back in New Zealand with seeds of what was then called Chinese, or Ichang, gooseberry, and from these a local nurseryman produced plants that first fruited in 1910.

    However, large scale commercial fruit production for the international market did not begin until the 1970s when the fruits of improved varieties were successfully marketed using the name kiwi fruit. The crop is now grown not only in New Zealand but also in Brazil, Chile, Australia, Italy (the world’s top producer) and elsewhere. In New Zealand it has escaped from cultivation and is considered to be potentially invasive in forests.

    Uses

    In China, the fruit is called 'yangtao', meaning 'strawberry peach', and has been cultivated for at least 300 years (there are over 400 varieties in China alone). Wild fruits are also harvested. Today, Italy is the world’s top producer of kiwi fruit, followed by New Zealand and Chile. The fruit is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin E and a range of B vitamins as well as dietary fibre. Actinidin, an enzyme present in the fruit, can be used as a meat tenderizer.

    Research indicates that kiwi fruit could be of potential benefit in preventing and halting some processes that lead to cardiovascular disease.

    Actinidia deliciosa makes an attractive ornamental climber.

    This species at Kew

    Actinidia deliciosa can be seen growing in the Temperate House and in the Berberis Dell at Kew.

    Fruits and seeds, catalogued under the name Actinidia chinensis, are held in Kew’s Economic Botany Collection, where they are available to researchers by appointment.

    Distribution
    China
    Ecology
    Mountain forests.
    Conservation
    Not evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria.
    Hazards

    Hairs of fruits can cause throat irritation if ingested, and fruits contain actinidin, an enzyme that can also be irritant.

    [KSP]
    Use
    Ornamental, edible fruits, medicine.

    Images

    Distribution

    Found In:

    China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast

    Introduced Into:

    Arkansas, Czechoslovakia, New Zealand North, New Zealand South

    Common Names

    English
    Kiwi fruit

    Actinidia chinensis var. deliciosa (A.Chev.) A.Chev. appears in other Kew resources:

    First published in Rev. Bot. Appl. Agric. Trop. 21: 241 (1941)

    Accepted in:

    • [4] Flora of China Editorial Committee (2007) Flora of China 12: 1-534. Science Press (Beijing) & Missouri Botanical Garden Press (St. Louis)

    Literature

    • [1] (2012) Bothalia, A Journal of Botanical Research 42: 51-56
    • [2] (2012) Preslia. Casopsi Ceské Botanické Spolecnosti 84: 647-811
    • [3] The Plant List (2010). Actinidia deliciosa.
    • [5] Duttaroy, A.K. & Jørgensen, A. (2004). Effects of kiwi fruit consumption on platelet aggregation and plasma lipids in healthy human volunteers. Platelets 15(5): 287–292.
    • [6] Davis, M. & Meurk, C. (2001). Protecting and Restoring our Natural Heritage – a Practical Guide. Department of Conservation, New Zealand.
    • [7] Vaughan, J.G. & Geissler, C.A. (1997). The New Oxford Book of Food Plants. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
    • [8] Ferguson, A.R. (1990). Botanical nomenclature: Actinidia chinensis, Actinidia deliciosa and Actinidia setosa. In: Kiwifruit: Science and Management. Warrington I. J., Weston G. C. (eds). pp.36-57. Ray Richards & New Zealand Society for Horticultural Science, Auckland.Flora of China Actinidia chinensis var. deliciosa 12: 334, 350.
    • [9] Morton, J. (1987). Fruits of Warm Climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, Florida. (The chapter on kiwi fruit is available on the Purdue University website.
    • [10] Ferguson, A.R. (1983). E.H. Wilson, Yichang, and the kiwifruit. Arnoldia, 43(4): 24-35.
    • [11] Schroeder, C.A. & Fletcher, W.A. (1967). The Chinese gooseberry ( Actinidia chinensis) in New Zealand. Econ. Bot. 21(1): 81-92.

    Sources

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2017). Published on the internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp
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