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1 June 2014

Akebia quinata (five-leaf akebia)

Datasheet Types: Invasive species, Tree, Host plant, Crop


This datasheet on Akebia quinata covers Identity, Overview, Distribution, Dispersal, Diagnosis, Biology & Ecology, Environmental Requirements, Natural Enemies, Impacts, Uses, Prevention/Control, Management, Genetics and Breeding, Further Information.


Preferred Scientific Name
Akebia quinata (Houtt.) Decne.
Preferred Common Name
five-leaf akebia
Other Scientific Names
Akebia micrantha Nakai
Akebia quinata f. albiflora Y.N.Lee
Akebia quinata f. diplochlamys (Makino) T. Shimizu
Akebia quinata f. polyphylla (Nakai) Hiyama
Akebia quinata f. viridiflora Makino
Akebia quinata var. diplochlamys Makino
Akebia quinata var. longeracemosa (Matsum.) Rehder & E.H.Wilson
Akebia quinata var. polyphylla Nakai
Akebia quinata var. yechi W.C.Cheng
Rajania quinata Thunb. ex Houtt
International Common Names
raisin vine
akébia à cinq folioles or feuilles
akebia pyaternoye
bai mu tong
mu tong
son ye mu tong
Local Common Names
fingerblättrige akebie
fuenfblaettrige akebie
EPPO code
AKEQI (Akebia quinata)


Five-leafed akebia (Akebia quinata); female, male, April, 2009
Five-leafed akebia (Akebia quinata); female, male, April, 2009
©Ashley Basil - 2009 - CC BY 2.0
Five-leafed akebia (Akebia quinata); Akebia pod, September, 2006
Seed pod
Five-leafed akebia (Akebia quinata); Akebia pod, September, 2006
©Hunda - 2006 - CC BY-SA 2.0
Akebia quinata (five-leaf akebia); habit. Botanical Garden Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany. April 2010.
Akebia quinata (five-leaf akebia); habit. Botanical Garden Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany. April 2010.
©H. Zell/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Akebia quinata (five-leaf akebia); young foliage. Yumihari Mountains, Toyohashi, Aichi prefecture, Japan. March 2014.
Akebia quinata (five-leaf akebia); young foliage. Yumihari Mountains, Toyohashi, Aichi prefecture, Japan. March 2014.
©Alpsdake/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Akebia quinata (five-leaf akebia); buds and flowers. Mount Ibuki, Shiga prefecture, Japan. May 2013.
Akebia quinata (five-leaf akebia); buds and flowers. Mount Ibuki, Shiga prefecture, Japan. May 2013.
©Alpsdake/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Akebia quinata (five-leaf akebia); female flower and five male flowers. Mount Ibuki, Shiga prefecture, Japan. May 2011.
Akebia quinata (five-leaf akebia); female flower and five male flowers. Mount Ibuki, Shiga prefecture, Japan. May 2011.
©Alpsdake/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Akebia quinata (five-leaf akebia); female flower. Mount Ibuki, Shiga prefecture, Japan. June 2012.
Female flower
Akebia quinata (five-leaf akebia); female flower. Mount Ibuki, Shiga prefecture, Japan. June 2012.
©Alpsdake/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Akebia quinata (five-leaf akebia); ripe fruits on vine. Mount Ibuki, Shiga prefecture, Japan. October 2013.
Akebia quinata (five-leaf akebia); ripe fruits on vine. Mount Ibuki, Shiga prefecture, Japan. October 2013.
©Alpsdake/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Akebia quinata (five-leaf akebia); ripe fruits on vine. Mount Ibuki, Shiga prefecture, Japan. October 2013.
Akebia quinata (five-leaf akebia); ripe fruits on vine. Mount Ibuki, Shiga prefecture, Japan. October 2013.
©Alpsdake/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Akebia quinata (five-leaf akebia); seeds. Note mm scale. Japan. November 2013.
Akebia quinata (five-leaf akebia); seeds. Note mm scale. Japan. November 2013.
©Alpsdake/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0


A. quinata is a liana, a vigorous, woody, deciduous, climbing vine. native to eastern Asia, eastern central China, Japan and Korea. The plants are monoecious. It is vigorous and will grow to 12 m very quickly. The combination of its vigour, vining habit and cold tolerance has lead it to being labelled as an invasive species. The juicy fruit pulp is sweet with a delicate flavour. The leaves have been used as a substitute for tea and the new young shoots can be eaten as a vegetable. Numerous health benefits have been attributed to various portions of the akebia plant. The stems are supposed to have antifungal, antibacterial, diuretic and laxative activity. In China, the plant is reputed to have contraceptive qualities. In addition to these characteristics the fruit is believed to be anticarcinogenic. Saponins and triterpenes have been isolated from akebia and are being evaluated for their pharmacological value. The plant has been commonly used as a landscape plant in temperate climates and is primarily valued for its foliage and flowering characteristics; variegated and white-flowering forms have found their way into the nursery trade  (Janick and Paull, 2008).

Summary of Invasiveness

A. quinata is a highly invasive, aggressive vine native to eastern Asia, eastern central China, Japan and Korea. It has been introduced into Canada, Europe, Oceania and the USA. Here it poses a dangerous risk to ecosystems by readily naturalizing in suitable climates. A. quinata grows quickly by vegetative means where it can outcompete and replace existing flora including understory shrubs and young trees. Its dense growth shades out sunlight preventing seed germination and establishment of seedlings of native plants. The dense shade created by A. quinata can kill existing species.

Taxonomic Tree

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Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

A. quinata is one of approximately 30–50 species in the family Lardizabalaceae (Watson and Dallwitz, 1992; Kofuji et al., 1994; Li et al., 2010; Schweingruber et al., 2011). The family Lardizabalaceae consists of approximately 40 species in seven genera. The genus Akebia is one of these and contains a total of six species (Christenhusz, 2012).
A. quinata was first circumscribed in 1779 as Rajania quinata by Maarten Houttuyn based on a specimen collected by Carl Peter Thunberg in Japan, most likely near Nagasaki (Christenhusz, 2012; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2012).
The name A. quinata var. longiracemosa is not a variety or synonym of A. quinata, but rather a synonym of A. longiracemose.

Plant Type

Vine / climber
Seed propagated
Vegetatively propagated


A. quinata is a liana, a vigorous, woody, deciduous, climbing vine. The stems are greyish brown, slender and cylindrical with small, prominent lenticels that have the shape of a flat ring or disk. Its pale red-brown winter buds' outer scales overlap like roof tiles. The petiole is slender (4.5–10 cm); its petiolules are slender (0.8–1.5(–2.5) cm). The leaves have several leaflets (typically 5–7) whose midribs all radiate from one point. The leaves alternate along the stems or cluster on the branchlets and are divided into five, or sometimes three to four or up to seven leaflets. The papery leaflets are obovate to obovate-elliptic. The leaflets are abaxially glaucous (whitish underneath), adaxially dark green (dark green above) with bases which are rounded to broadly cuneate. The apex, that is the point furthest from the point of attachment, is rounded and usually emarginated (notched) or cuspidate (with a point). The lateral leaflets measure 2–5 x 1.5–2.5 cm, while the terminal leaflets are 2.5–5(–7) cm. The racemes are clustered or bundled together measuring 6–12 cm. The scaly bracts are arranged like roof tiles. The stem that attaches or supports single flowers to the main stem of the inflorescence is approximately 2.5 cm and is located on short branches. The small, purple-brown, hanging flowers are held in groups of two to five and have somewhat fragrant chocolate or, in some sources, vanilla scent.
Flowers are monoecious, apetalous, with both staminate (male) and pistillate (female) flowers appearing in the same raceme. A. quinata produces staminate and pistillate flowers that are found in pendulous, racemose clusters (Payne and Seago, 1968). Male flowers are 4–8(–11) mm. The stem that attaches single flowers to the main stem slender is 7-10 mm with three sepals 3(-5), pale purple, occasionally pale green or white, broadly cucullate-ovate, 6–8 x 4–6 mm, apex rounded. Stamens 6 (or 7), straight at first, incurved at length; filaments very short; anthers oblong. Pistillodes 3–6, small. Female flowers, pedicel slender, 2–4(–5) cm. Sepals dark purple, occasionally green or white, broadly elliptic to suborbicular, 1–2 x 0.8–1.5 cm. Staminode 6–9. Carpels 3–6(–9). The sausage-shaped, purplish pods of the mature fruit are straight or slightly incurved, oblong to ellipsoid, 5–8 x 3–4 cm. Seeds ovoid-oblong, compressed, pulp white; seed coat brown to black, shiny (Brand, 2001; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2013; Missouri Botanical Gardens, 2013)


A. quinata is a well-documented, adventive vine native to eastern Asia, eastern central China, Japan and Korea. It has been introduced into parts of North America, Europe and Australia.

Distribution Map

This content is currently unavailable.

Distribution Table

This content is currently unavailable.

History of Introduction and Spread

A. quinata is reported to have been introduced into cultivation in the USA 1845 by Robert Fortune during his first visit to China, from the island of Chusan, southeast of Shanghai (Christenhusz and Rix, 2012).
By the mid nineteenth century A. quinata was widely known to ornamental horticulturists in both Europe and the USA. Its ability to rapidly provide cover in either sun or shade for trellises, fences and walls meant that it was sought after as a landscape ornamental (Missouri Botanical Gardens, 2013). A Chicago, Illinois (USA) newspaper extolled the virtues and hardiness of Akebia, along with Clematis and Wisteria (Pomeroy, 1873).


Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonsIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
USAChina~1845 YesNo 

Risk of Introduction

A. quinata is a well-known and easily found ornamental landscape plant. The primary pathway for introduction is the ornamental landscape, horticulture and nursery trade in Europe, Australia and North America and this species is still sold as such. A. quinata is listed as a species to be observed in the Mediterranean Basin (Brunel et al., 2010).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

Natural Dispersal

A. quinata primarily spreads over short distances by vegetative means.

Vector Transmission

Birds, animals and human are all involved in seed dispersal (Li et al., 2010).

Intentional Introduction

A. quinata is readily available in the garden and landscape trade and horticultural industry in North America and Europe and as a result is intentionally introduced into new areas (BALKEP, 2014; Dave’s Garden, 2014; Royal Horticultural Society, 2014).

Pathway Causes

Pathway Vectors

Pathway vectorNotesLong distanceLocalReferences
Host and vector organisms (pathway vector)  Yes 
Plants or parts of plants (pathway vector) YesYes 

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Species of Aristolochia resemble A. quinata (ISSG, 2012). Aristolochia species have purple flowers but have spade-shaped simple leaves. At first sight A. quinata may be confused with Virginia creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, an indigenous North American species (Gray et al., 2009). However the leaflets of P. quinquefolia have toothed edges compared to the smooth edges of A. quinata. A. quinata may also be confused with Wisteria frutescens and W. sinensis (Sonday and Burnham, 2014), however the leaflets of Wisteria species are not arranged palmately.


A. quinata is both shade and drought tolerant. It can invade many types of ecosystems. In China it was reported by Robert Fortune as growing on the lower side of hills, in hedges and climbing on trees (Lindley, 1847). A. quinata can be found along forest margins and streams, as well as scrub growth on mountain slopes at 300-1500 m in China (Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2013).

Habitat List

CategorySub categoryHabitatPresenceStatus
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural landPrincipal habitatProductive/non-natural
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedDisturbed areasPrincipal habitatHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedDisturbed areasPrincipal habitatNatural
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedRail / roadsidesPrincipal habitatHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedRail / roadsidesPrincipal habitatNatural
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedUrban / peri-urban areasPrincipal habitatProductive/non-natural
TerrestrialTerrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forestsPrincipal habitatHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forestsPrincipal habitatNatural
TerrestrialTerrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalRiverbanksPrincipal habitatHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalRiverbanksPrincipal habitatNatural
TerrestrialTerrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalWetlandsSecondary/tolerated habitatHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalWetlandsSecondary/tolerated habitatNatural
TerrestrialTerrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalScrub / shrublandsSecondary/tolerated habitatHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalScrub / shrublandsSecondary/tolerated habitatNatural

Biology and Ecology


A diploid number of 2n = 32 has been reported for A. quinata (Angelo, 2011). A. quinata can cross with A. trifoliata to create the hybrid Akebia x pentaphylla.

Reproductive Biology

A. quinata reproduces vegetatively (clonally). Flowers of A. quinata are "strongly" protogynous, self-incompatible and require cross pollination. The main pollinators observed are hoverfies (Syrphidae family), honey bees (Apis species) and small solitary bees, although wind pollination is also suspected due to specific inflorescence structures and shapes (Payne and Seago, 1968; Kawagoe and Suzuki, 2002; Li et al., 2010). 

Physiology and Phenology

A. quinata is an apical vine twining from right to left (dextrally in relation to its main stem) as it moves upwards (Payne and Seago, 1968). A. quinata flowers in spring (March–May) and fruits in autumn (September–October); the female flowers open a few days before the male inflorescence (Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2013; Sonday and Burnham, 2014). The flowering period typically lasts between 30 and 60 days (Li et al., 2010).
Fruit set in the wild is usually low according to Li et al. (2010); however the authors report observance of heavy fruit loads under orchard cultivation where there is a short, two year juvenile period prior to fruiting.

Population Size and Structure

Heavy harvest of Akebia species fruit for medicinal purposes in the wild has resulted in a population decline in China (Li et al., 2010).

Environmental Requirements

A. quinata is both shade and drought tolerant. It can invade many types of ecosystems preferring light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and soils rich in iron and aluminium (Li et al., 2010). A. quinata requires a well-drained yet moist soil for optimal growth and reproduction. This species will grow on a north facing slope, as well as thriving in full sun. It is hardy to about –20°C. Its early spring growth on both young and mature plants is frost-tender. In mild, temperate climates A. quinata may be semi-evergreen (Swearingen et al., 2009; ISSG, 2012).


Climate typeDescriptionPreferred or toleratedRemarks
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all yearWarm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all yearPreferred 
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winterWarm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)Preferred 

Air Temperature

ParameterLower limit (°C)Upper limit (°C)
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month 35
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month-20 


ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration  number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall 1500mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime


Soil Tolerances

Soil texture > light
Soil texture > medium
Soil texture > heavy
Soil reaction > acid
Soil reaction > neutral
Soil reaction > alkaline
Soil drainage > free

List of Pests

This content is currently unavailable.

Notes on Natural Enemies

No serious pests or diseases have been reported for A. quinata (Missouri Botanical Gardens, 2013). However, in Italy, powdery mildew (order Erysiphales) has been reported on this species (Garibaldi et al., 2004).
Four species of fungi have been found in association with members of the genus Akebia. These include Microsphaera akebiae [Erysiphe akebiae], Microsphaera penicillata [Erysiphe penicillata], Muyocopron smilacis and Aecidium akebiae (Zheng et al., 2006). In addition to this three arthropod species have been found associated with Akebia species: Evecliptopera decurrens, Ophideres fullonica [Eudocima fullonia] and Archips asiaticus (Zheng et al., 2006).

Natural enemies

Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Aecidium akebiaePathogen
Whole plant
to genus  No
Archips asiaticusHerbivore
Whole plant
to genus  No
Erysiphe akebiaePathogen
Whole plant
to genus  No
Erysiphe penicillataPathogen
Whole plant
to genus  No
Eudocima fullonia (fruit-piercing moth)Herbivore
Whole plant
to genus  No
Evecliptopera decurrensHerbivore
Whole plant
to genus  No
Muyocopron smilacisPathogen
Whole plant
to genus  No

Impact Summary

Environment (generally)Positive
Human healthNegative

Impact: Environmental

Impact on Habitats

A. quinata outcompetes indigenous species through its suppression of light, its consumption of water, nutrients and space (ISSG, 2012).

Impact on Biodiversity

A. quinata is reported to outcompete and displace native plant species thereby decreasing biodiversity (ISSG, 2012).

Risk and Impact Factors


Proved invasive outside its native range
Has a broad native range
Abundant in its native range
Highly adaptable to different environments
Is a habitat generalist
Pioneering in disturbed areas
Tolerant of shade
Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
Fast growing
Reproduces asexually
Has high genetic variability

Impact outcomes

Altered trophic level
Damaged ecosystem services
Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
Modification of hydrology
Modification of nutrient regime
Modification of successional patterns
Negatively impacts forestry
Reduced native biodiversity
Threat to/ loss of endangered species
Threat to/ loss of native species

Impact mechanisms

Competition - monopolizing resources
Competition - shading
Competition - smothering
Competition - strangling
Rapid growth

Likelihood of entry/control

Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately


Economic Value

A. quinata is a specimen plant used in ornamental gardens and managed landscapes (Brand, 2001; Missouri Botanical Gardens, 2013; Dave’s Garden, 2014; Royal Horticultural Society, 2014). A. quinata is used as a ground cover and climbing ornamental specimen. The use of Akebia as an ornamental has a long history in the USA. The leaves of A. quinata may be mixed in salads or used fresh and dry for tea and in herb vinegar mixtures. The bitter skin of the fruit reportedly can be fried and eaten. The peeled stems are very pliable and can be used in basket making (BALKEP, 2014).

Social Benefit

In China, the fruits of Akebia species including A. quinata have a use in traditional medicines in which urinary tract infections, scanty lactation and rheumatoid arthritis are treated. In addition, the fruits have been shown to have stimulatory effects on blood circulation and to have anticancer properties (Li et al., 2010). A. quinata seeds produce an oil used in traditional soap making in China (Zheng et al., 2006).

Uses List

General > Botanical garden/zoo
General > Sociocultural value
Ornamental > Christmas tree
Ornamental > Cut flower
Ornamental > garden plant
Ornamental > Potted plant
Ornamental > Propagation material
Ornamental > Seed trade
Environmental > Landscape improvement
Materials > Essential oils
Medicinal, pharmaceutical > Traditional/folklore
Human food and beverage > Fruits
Human food and beverage > Root crop
Human food and beverage > Beverage base
Human food and beverage > Vegetable

Prevention and Control

Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Physical/Mechanical Control

Vines of A. quinata which are growing on the ground can be pulled by hand. For climbing vines, first cut the stems near the ground to kill the upper portions in the tree canopies. The plant below the cut will remain alive and must be pulled repeatedly over many growing seasons. Young vines that regrow can be cut any time of year using a weed whip or mower. Vines must be cut down repeatedly over several years until no regrowth occurs. Thorough mulching may be an additional tool to suppress regrowth after an initial pulling and cutting (Swearingen et al., 2009). 

Chemical Control

Treatment with 2-4% triclopyr in water can be applied to control A. quinata. Best results occur when treated during spring/early summer many desirable plants are present during this time. Therefore a fall/dormant treatment followed by spot treatments during the growing season is often advisable (Zedaker and Burch, 2001). To control climbing vines in trees, cut large stems and immediately treat the stumps with a herbicide, triclopyr or a glyphosate. A subsequent foliar application of may be required to control new seedlings and any resprouts (Bargeron et al., 2008). 


The pods split when ripe, revealing an inner core of several hundred black seeds with edible white pulp. While generally grown as a garden plant in the Americas, fruit is harvested from native stands in Asia and grown on a limited commercial scale in Europe (Janick and Paull, 2008).

Genetic Resources and Breeding

The plants are self-incompatible so cross-pollination between two genotypes is necessary for fruit set (Janick and Paull, 2008).

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

More research is needed on the possible control of A. quinata by biological means and its impact on rare/endangered species.

Links to Websites

GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS) source for updated system data added to species habitat list.


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Published online: 1 June 2014





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