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Berchemia scandens

(Alabama Supplejack)


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Common Names

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Common Names in English:

Alabama Supplejack, Rattan Vine, Rattan vines, Supplejack


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Family Rhamnaceae

Deciduous or evergreen , often thorny trees , shrubs , woody climbers , or lianas, rarely herbs. Leaves simple , petiolate , alternate or opposite, pinnately veined or 3-5-veined, entire to serrate, sometimes much reduced; stipules small, caducous or persistent , sometimes transformed into spines. Flowers yellowish to greenish, rarely brightly colored , small, bisexual or unisexual , rarely polygamous, (4 or) 5-merous, hypogynous to epigynous , in mostly axillary , sessile or pedunculate cymes, or reduced to few in fascicles. Calyx tube patelliform or hemispherical to tubular , sometimes absent, at rim with calyx, corolla, and stamens; sepals 4 or 5, valvate in bud, triangular, erect or ± recurved during anthesis , adaxially often distinctly keeled , alternate with petals. Petals 4 or 5, rarely absent, usually smaller than sepals, concave or hooded , rarely nearly flat, often shortly clawed. Stamens 4 or 5, antepetalous and often ± enclosed by petals; filaments thin, adnate to bases of petals; anthers minute, versatile or not, 2(or 4) -celled, dehiscing by longitudinal slits, usually introrse . Disk intrastaminal , nectariferous , thin to ± fleshy , entire or lobed , glabrous or rarely pubescent , free from ovary or tightly surrounding it, or adnate to calyx tube. Ovary superior to inferior, (1 or) 2-4-loculed, with 1(or 2) ovules per locule; ovules anatropous , basal and erect; styles simple or ± deeply 3-lobed or 3-cleft. Fruit either an indehiscent, rarely explosively dehiscent , sometimes winged , schizocarpic capsule, or a ± fleshy drupe with 1-4 indehiscent, rarely dehiscent, pyrenes (stones ) . Seeds with thin, oily albumen, sometimes exalbuminous ; embryo large, oily, straight or rarely bent.

About 50 genera and more than 900 species: almost cosmopolitan , mainly in subtropical to tropical areas; 13 genera and 137 species (82 endemic, one introduced ) in China.

Former classifications usually placed Rhamnaceae in the Rhamnales, together with Vitaceae and Leeaceae (Suessenguth in Engler & Prantl, Nat. Pflanzenfam., ed. 2, 20d. 1953), or together with Elaeagnaceae (Thorne, Bot. Rev. 58: 225-348. 1992) . Orders such as Celastrales, Urticales, and Euphorbiales have often been considered as closely related groups. Recent analyses of DNA sequences strongly supported including the family in the Rosales, beside the closest relatives Barbeyaceae and Dirachmaceae (see Angiosperm Phylogeny Group II, Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 141: 399-436. 2003) . Suessenguth (loc. cit. ) grouped the family into five tribes , mainly characterized by fruit characters. Richardson et al. (Kew Bull . 55: 311-340. 2000; Amer. J. Bot. 87: 1309-1324. 2000) revised this tribal classification on the basis of a phylogenetic analysis using rbcL and trnL-F sequences of the plastid genome. Now 11 tribes are recognized, of which four are represented in the Flora area.

The bark , leaves, and fruit of several species of Rhamnus have been used as laxatives , notably R. cathartica and R. frangula. Diverse Old World species of Rhamnus provide yellow and green dyes as well as drugs. Timber of Alphitonia, Colubrina, Hovenia, and Ziziphus species is used for construction, fine furniture, carving, lathework, and musical instruments. Many Ziziphus species yield edible fruit; among them, Z. jujuba (Chinese jujube) and Z. mauritiana (Indian jujube) are cultivated on a commercial scale. Hovenia dulcis is also grown for its edible, fleshy inflorescence stalks . Species of Hovenia, Paliurus, and Rhamnus are cultivated as ornamentals .[1]

Genus Berchemia

Shrubs climbing or erect , evergreen to deciduous, rarely small trees , unarmed . Leaves alternate; stipules connate at base , persistent , rarely caducous ; leaf blade mostly papery , margin entire, venation pinnate, with 4-18 pairs of strongly parallel secondary and mostly strongly parallel tertiary veins. Flowers bisexual , pedicellate , 5-merous, glabrous , in thyrses composed of mainly few flowered, terminal or axillary , pedunculate to sessile, corymblike cymes. Calyx tube disk- to cup-shaped or hemispherical. Sepals triangular, rarely linear or narrowly lanceolate, adaxially ± distinctly keeled . Petals spatulate to lanceolate, shorter than or ca. as long as sepals, shortly clawed. Stamens dorsifixed , equaling petals or slightly shorter. Disk mainly fleshy , filling calyx tube, with 10 irregular lobes , free at margin. Ovary superior, ± deeply immersed in disk, 2-loculed, with 1 ovule per locule; styles cylindric , short, undivided; stigma large, entire, emarginate , or 2-fid. Drupe single-stoned, purple-red or purple-black, often turning black at maturity, mostly cylindric, rarely obovate , base with persistent calyx tube and disk remnants, apex often with rudimentary style; mesocarp fleshy, thin, sometimes sweet-tasting; endocarp stiffly cartilaginous , 2-loculed, locules 1-seeded.

About 32 species: mainly in temperate and tropical areas of E to SE Asia; 19 species (12 endemic) in China.

The roots , stems, and leaves in some species are used medicinally. The young leaves are used as a substitute for tea.[2]

Physical Description

Habit: Vine

Flowers: Flower Color: pale green


Size: 6-8' tall.


Typically found at an altitude of 0 to 562 meters (0 to 1,844 feet).[3]


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Duration: Perennial


Soil: Minimum pH: 6.1 • Maximum pH: 7.5

Sunlight: Sun Exposure: Sun to Partial Shade.

Temperature: Cold Hardiness: 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b. (map)


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Rhamnus scandens Hill


Name Status: Accepted Name .

Last scrutiny: 15-Mar-2000

Similar Species

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Members of the genus Berchemia

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 3 species, subspecies, varieties, forms, and cultivars in this genus:

B. racemosa var. magna (Berchemia) · B. scandens (Alabama Supplejack) · B. zeyheri (Pink Ivory)

More Info

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Further Reading

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Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal November 17, 2007:



  1. Yilin Chen & Carsten Schirarend "Rhamnaceae". in Flora of China Vol. 12 Page 115,355. Published by Science Press (Beijing) and Missouri Botanical Garden Press. Online at [back]
  2. Yilin Chen & Carsten Schirarend "Berchemia". in Flora of China Vol. 12 Page 116, 124,130. Published by Science Press (Beijing) and Missouri Botanical Garden Press. Online at [back]
  3. Mean = 102.590 meters (336.581 feet), Standard Deviation = 108.280 based on 986 observations. Altitude information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]
Last Revised: 2015-01-30