Agapetes Fruit?

mark4321_gwApril 13, 2013

I've repeatedly read that Agapetes fruits are edible, but can find very little other information. Agapetes can truly be called "tropical blueberries" as the two genera Vaccinium and Agapetes are very closely related.

Are the fruits not only edible, but actually tasty? Are some species better tasting or more productive?

One of my biggest concerns is whether the species are self-fertile and/or whether cross-pollination improves yields.

My questions started when I was over at my mom's, where my Agapetes serpens lives. It is putting on quite a show, which should continue for a while. I told my my mom that this odd but stunning plant is essentially a blueberry, with edible fruit. Beyond that I didn't know a thing.

I do have other Agapetes that could serve as pollinators in theory, growing in my yard. These are smaller plants, and I'm not sure which, if any, have buds right now. None have tons of buds/booms like this Agapetes serpens.

This is only a small part of the plant.

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I thought I would bump this up just in case anyone knows anything about this genus. I also attached a photo of the whole plant. It's been repotted, so that it can be grown as a hanging basket.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 12:03PM
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Don't know about how tasty the berries are, but it sure is a beautiful plant. Mine is still pretty small, from Annie's Annuals, but if it fruits, I'll get back to you, hope yours fruits first though, that way you can be the guinea pig, not me :) (After a few bad experiences testing "edible" fruit, some people's definition of edible is: "Well, it won't give you the runs, go right ahead!")

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 1:09AM
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I'll keep you posted. My plant is originally from Strybing, but I've seen the Agapetes at Annie's, and they always look great as well. Locally, I've also seen really nice gallon-sized A. serpens for cheap at Hortica in SF. I bought a huge A. 'Ludgvan Cross' thrdere in a 1 gallon pot for $11. As a tiny nursery, their supplies constantly change.

If someone is interested in growing the plant, and is not from the Bay Area, I would put in a strong endorsement for Bovees in Portland. I got A. serpens 'Nepal Cream' (the alba form), A. hosseana and A. smithiana major there for $9.50 each, all in bloom or bud.

My favorite statement about a fruit that leads me to question whether it should be eaten is "makes great jam".

The Agaptes photo from Hortica is a couple years old; I wouldn't be surprised if a comparable plant is now a dollar or two more.

Here is a link that might be useful: Agapetes at Bovees Nursery

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 2:03AM
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I live a few miles from Bovee's Nursery in Portland OR and visited the owner/propagator (Lucy) today for advice on pruning my very leggy plant. I brought my 15 year old plant which I bought from them about 5 years ago. The owner pruned it for me and told me how to re-pot it and propagate all the cuttings. She has lots of starts and some huge specimens in some funky "garden shed-like" greenhouses in which she overwinters them all. Here's the low down from the expert. I hope I am accurate in reporting to this to y'all.
1. You can prune back rather mercilessly in fall to encourage more interior growth. She really did a number on mine.
2. Repot in potting soil that is mostly fine peat with about 25% perlite or fine volcanic rock.
3. Fertilize in spring, but don't overdo it. Underfertilizing is better than over fertilizing.
4. Berries are entirely edible, when they occur, but taste like very bland blueberries. Not worth the bother.
5. Propagation of 6" long tip cuttings should be very easy. Use whatever rooting hormone you like and use a 50/50 mix of fine peat and fine perlite or volcanic rock. Keep moist and absolutely tent the starts with clear plastic or some such cover. Bottom heat helps but is not necessary.
6. Her prime specimen survived Columbia Gorge freezing east wind in a somewhat protected porch area a few winters ago, dropped all leaves, looked dead, but shot up all kinds of new growth the following spring. So they can obviously survive mild freezes. Mine is in a hanging basket facing east for most of the year, but gets no direct sun after noon. It comes into an unheated vestibule with reasonably good light through winter. So far, so good.
7. She demanded several times during our conversation that I email pictures of my progress in propagation and how her pruning turns out. She is beginning to wind down the business but hopes to continue living on the premises because she can't bear to see the lineage of all her shade-loving specialty plants expire.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 10:45PM
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Thanks for all the info and advice from Bovees/Lucy! That must be a fun place to visit, with all of the Vireyas and other plants.

I should have followed up here--I did taste Agapetes serpens fruits (as did Northbay12)--my mom's plant made a few fruits. I agree with Lucy's description of the taste. I think it was worth trying at least a couple. The blueberry taste is definitely there, but weak. I found that interesting.

I chopped my mom's plant way back a couple years ago because it had a heavy infestation of thrips. It shot out tons of strong new growth the next Spring.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 11:55PM
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