Monday, March 9, 2015

How Do I tell the Sex of Schisandra Chinesis? - Chinese Magnolia Vine

Available for purchase here Sold out for 2015
Seeds available at (est arrival 2/15/2016)

Do I have a male or female Chinese Magnolia vine?

Here at Foxgreen Farms we offer plants of Schisandra Chinesis or the Chinese Magnolia Vine.  It is also sometimes called the "Five Flavor Berry".  The plant is described as either being male or female and both are needed for fruit production.  This however is not the whole story as you will see.  First, lets look at the differences between the male and female flowers. We had listed them as unsexed, That has changed.  Read on.

Male Schisandra Chinesis Flower

Both male and female flowers are of similar size.  They have 6-9 petals.  The photos above are clickable and you can see the detail of the male flowers very well.  They have 5 stamens in the center of each flower.

Female Schisandra Chinesis Flower

The female flower has numerous pistillate parts making up the center of the flower.  As they mature they turn from darker to lighter green.  The female flowers tend to occur on the higher portions of the plant. 
Female flower top right.  Male flower bottom left.  Fruit center.

The Magic of Nature

Well not magic but most likely with newer plant introductions the information is confusing.  Plants are often sold as needing a male pollinator. Or as a female only plant.  Different cultivars and developments could make this true.  The natural plant is monoecious.  This means the plant has distinct male and female flowers on the same plant. The flowers have no nectaries and while some insects have been observed on the flowers, they are considered wind pollinated.

Male and Female Schisandra flowers on the same plant.

Our plants are seed propagated from seed obtained in China.  They are the most widely grown type of Schisandra in the world, for good reason.  The genetic variability will be valuable in your garden and the plants have not had their natural occurrence of male and female flowers bred out of them to maximize (theoretically) fruit production.  This brings back some memories from a few years back when information on Sea Buckthorn was not readily available and often wrong.  

This graph illustrates the expression or occurrence of female and male flowers on the same plant in 492 plants.  The young and old plants had fewer flowers and more male than female flowers on the same plant.  In years 5-9 female flowers outnumbered the male flowers.  Why is that?  Younger and older plants are less robust and the plant wisely decides to limit fruit production favoring energy to maintaining the plant vs. fruit.  Environment has an impact as well.  Plants in their prime, in sunny locations may only produce female flowers, while those in less sunny conditions have either both flower types or occasionally produce only male flowers.


The excitement about learning more about nature continues.  Human intervention with breeding can change the natural properties of plants for a perceived improvement.  Controlling nature in this way often doesn't work.   If there exists a natural, robust alternative, you may want to choose those varieties.  Schisandra plants should begin producing in year 2-3 and be a very rewarding plant for may years.  Planning a larger amount of individual plants might benefit overall fruit production if they are planted in differing sun intensity locations.  A forest garden application could include some planted in semi-shade and others in full sun.  This would increase both the male and female flower production in each of the areas ensuring pollination.  

Foxgreen Farm News:

We have a new introduction in the seed category -  Native American seeds.  These seeds have the enduring quality of being utilized by tribes before European contact in the Americas.  The packets are sample sized so planting a bit of each is going to be fun.  All are heirloom and the ones you favor or grow best in your area can be harvested and the seed saved for next year's planting.  They can be found at


  1. This was just the information I was looking for. I have a plant that is about 7 years old. It has only produced two clusters of berries. If the plant was dioecious, it wouldn't have any berries. Most flowers do appear to be female. Plant intelligence, adapting, resource allocation.... You are my hero. Thanks for blogging.

    1. That was a very nice comment. You made my day! Thanks!

  2. Pleaee tell me where can I purchase plants of this ? Thank you very much in advance

  3. Please tell me where can I purchase plants of this? thank you in advance

  4. Hi - I am not aware of anyone selling them this year. I had some last year but the crop failed for this year. I do have seeds I got from China and am running germination tests right now. When they are available, they will be on

  5. Hi, I got a couple of vines from - Edgewood Nursery. They are done shipping for the year but they're a good source.