NORTHAMPTON, Mass. — For only the second time in the 15 years, the jade vine is strutting its stuff. Staff members of the Botanic Garden at Smith have been watching the development of the flower buds and predict that it should be in full bloom this week.
This vine is highly prized in the horticultural world for its ostentatious claw-shaped flowers in an unusual luminescent blue-green color. The blossoms develop on pendulous racemes, flowering stalks that look like chains of flowers and can easily reach three feet in length. “To our knowledge this is the only jade vine to bloom in New England,” says Madelaine Zadik, Botanic Garden manager of education and outreach.
“Our two plants arrived at the Botanic Garden of Smith College as cuttings from the New York Botanical Garden in 1999,” Zadik says. “We rooted them and planted them in the ground in the Palm House, providing an arbor especially constructed for them to climb. Since then the vines have thrived. They flowered for the first time in 2009, but it has take another five years for them to bloom again.”
A native of the Phillippines, this wisteria-like vine can grow to 70 feet. Its most striking feature is the color of its flowers. Sometimes called iridescent aquamarine, the color challenges the descriptive vocabularies of all but the professional colormetrist, and only a scant few other flowers display anything similar. The flowering period in the Philippines is from March to June, and Smith botanists were startled to find in mid-March, a single raceme starting to descend from the top of the arbor.
Photographs of the blooms are available on the website. For those who wish to see it live, the jade is in the Palm House near the doorway leading out to the rock garden. The Smith College Lyman Conservatory, on College Lane in Northampton, is open to the public daily 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is wheelchair accessible. While there is no set admission fee, the suggested donation is $1.