Schisandra: Bay Star Vine
(Note: This article was originally published on March 21, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware tha tauthors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)
Schisandra glabra, also known as Bay Star-Vine or Climbing Magnolia is one of the twenty five plants in the Schisandra genus of the family known as Schisandraceae, which also includes nearly two dozen plants in the Kadsura genus.
Doing a quick search at Dave's Garden Botanary pages reveals the meaning of Schisandra. From the Greek schizein (to split, divide, or cleave) and andros (male, stamen), referring to the separate anther cells.
S. glabra (syn. S. coccinea) can be found in the United States from Louisiana north to Arkansas and Kentucky, south to Tennessee, east to North Carolina and finally, south to Florida. Taking a look at the USDA map of occurrences, one is able to see the counties where S. glabra has been recorded in each of these states. 
Photo courtesy of
On the USDA website, S. glabra is listed as endangered in Florida (listed as S. coccinea) and Kentucky. In Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee, it is listed as threatened. This is due to non-native species, such as Lonicera japonica, Japanese honeysuckle choking the vine out of its natural habitat. Urban sprawl remains a concern for this native. As we build neighborhoods farther out away from the center of our cities, all native plants and animals suffer. S. glabra is no exception. When this plant is found in protected woodlands where human interference is limited, such as those of our State and National Parks, it is still not safe from foot traffic and forest fires.
In the wild, S. glabra grows as an understory plant twining up to fifteen feet around trees and bushes. Growing best in the shade of these larger plants, it will thrive in partial shade as well. It likes moist soil and for this reason, will most likely not set berries under drought conditions. Small crimson colored flowers appear from May to July closely followed by red berries in late July and August.
A wonderful vine for the home gardener, S. glabra brings beautiful greenery to shady spots of the garden. It is often confused with Decumaria barbara (Climbing hydrangea), a common vine in the Southeastern U.S. Several other Schisandras can be found dressing up home gardens across the Southeast, including S. rubriflora, S. lancifolia and S. chinensis.
|Photo courtesy of Dave's Garden |
S. rubriflora (Chinese Magnolia Vine) has beautiful deep red blooms and can reach to thirty feet tall. S. lancifolia climbs to twenty feet and spring blooms are cream to tan in color. S. chinensis also grows to twenty feet tall with blooms of cream to tan.
Rooting the Bay Star Vine
The Schisandra is a deciduous woody vine that is easily rooted from heel cuttings. A heel cutting should be at least two years old. Collect cuttings in fall by pulling a stem down and away from the main stem or by using a sharp knife to cut the piece from main stem. Either process should bring a little of the main stem tissue with the cutting. This can then be placed in your choice of rooting medium and treated as you would any other cuttings.
|Photo courtesy of Dave's Garden |
Beyond being a lovely vine in the wild and in home gardens, at least one species, Schisandra chinensis, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to ward off or cure a myriad of illnesses. 
To discuss vines of all sorts, visit the Vines and Climbers forum at Dave's Garden.
Also visit Plant Files at Dave's Garden for your plant research needs.
Mitch Fitzgerald included a good list of vines in his article, "Deciduous Vines for the Garden."
Photo of red blooming Schisandra rubriflora courtesy of Dave's Garden member, nightowl2 Thomas Gale, "The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine"
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