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Vigorous climbers, or shrubs of a loose, spreading habit, with alternate, deciduous leaves. Flowers small, greenish-yellow or white, of little beauty; in terminal or axillary clusters, with the sexes sometimes on separate plants. Fruit very handsome; usually a three-lobed capsule, which when ripe splits open, revealing its highly coloured inner surface and the fleshy covering of the seeds, also highly coloured and known as the aril. The climbing species are admirable for covering rough oak branches 10 to 15 ft high set in the ground, old trees, or for planting anywhere where the twining shoots may firmly attach themselves and secure the plant, yet at the same time allow many of the long, slender shoots to hang unrestrained in free air. No systematic pruning is required except such as is necessary out of considerations of space, and this should be done as soon as the fruits have fallen in winter. Seeds afford an abundant means of propagation, and the plants also layer very freely. All of them are gross feeders, and like a deep, loamy soil.
The genus was monographed by D. Hou in Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard., Vol.42, pp. 215-302 (1955).
In addition to the species mentioned below under C. orbiculatus, two others, both evergreen and perhaps not reliably hardy, have been introduced to Kew since 1970. These are C. monospermus Roxb. and C. hindsii Benth., both with a wide distribution in the warmer parts of east Asia.