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Problems, pests & diseases
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Requires a well-drained moisture retentive fertile soil. Succeeds in most soils, preferring full sun but tolerating semi-shade. Best if grown in semi-shade on an east or west facing wall. Tolerates atmospheric pollution. Dormant plants are hardy to about -25°c, though the young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts. A very ornamental plant, it is self-supporting on walls by means of adhesive tendrils. Very fast growing, though it often does not grow very much in its first year or two after planting out. When established, it can send out new growth 6 metres long in a year. The plant can, however, become a nuisance by climbing into gutters. Plants are very tolerant of trimming and can be cut right back to the base if required to rejuvenate the plant. Any pruning is best carried out in the spring. The fruit is normally only produced after a long hot summer. There are several named varieties.
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Stored seed requires stratifying for 6 weeks at 5°c and should be sown as early in the year as possible. Germination is variable. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 7 - 10cm taken at a node (ensure that it has at least 2 true buds), July/August in a frame. Easy to root but they do not always survive the first winter. Basal hardwood cuttings of current seasons growth, 10 - 12 cm long, autumn in a frame. Layering. Plants often self-layer.
Eastern N. America - Quebec to Florida and Mexico. A garden escape in Britain.
Woods and rocky banks.
Fruit - raw. The fruit is not very well flavoured, nor is it produced very freely[K]. The fruit is about 6mm in diameter and is carried in small bunches like grapes[K]. Stalks - cooked. They should be peeled and then boiled. The stalks are cut, boiled and peeled, and the sweetish substance between the bark and the wood is used for food. Root - cooked.
A pink dye is obtained from the fruit. The plant can be allowed to fall down banks and make a spreading ground cover. They are best spaced about 3 metres apart each way. They are very vigorous, however, and would soon swamp smaller plants[K].
The bark and fresh young shoots are aperient, alterative, emetic, expectorant and tonic. A hot decoction can be used as a poultice to help reduce swellings. A tea made from the leaves is aperient, astringent and diuretic. It is used as a wash on swellings and poison ivy rash. A tea made from the plant is used in the treatment of jaundice. A tea made from the roots is used in the treatment of gonorrhoea and diarrhoea. The fruit is useful in treating fevers.
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