So what do cat faeces, goat horns and devil’s fingers have in common? Well, these are all Chinese common names of a surprisingly hardy unusual fruit tree, endemic to western China and introduced to the west in 1893, Decaisnea insignis (syn D. fargesii). Cornucopia II has this species as synonymous with Holboellia fargesii, but the Plant List and Food Plants of China has it as a related species in the Lardizabala family, which also includes the Akebias, Sinofranchetia chinensis, and the Stauntonias, all having edible fruits. I have one single Decaisnea which I planted out in 2006 at about 1 year old. It grew quickly to full size of about 3-4m and flowered for the first time in 2010. Although it flowers prolifically every year, no fruit is set. I have planted a second tree this autumn, hoping this will help. I was surprised it proved to be hardy here and survived without any frost damage the coldest winter ever here when it was below 0C night and day and down to about -22C with no snow cover at the coldest for almost 3 months. The depth of soil over rock is only about 20 cm where it grows and the soil was frozen down to the bedrock for about 4 months that winter!
The pictures of the tree and fruits below are from the Oslo, Munich and Dublin botanical gardens respectively, the other pictures in my garden!
The shiny metallic blue fruits make this a great edimental and give it it’s English common names, Dead man’s fingers or blue sausage tree! The pulp of the fruit is used in China, not bad tasting, but not the best fruit by a long way!