How to grow kiwi?

History of the Kiwifruit

By association, it would be easy to assume that the Kiwi fruit originated in New Zealand, when in fact, this odd fruit originated in China. Actinidia Deliciosa is the Kiwi’s scientific name but it was also named Mihou Tao and Yang Tao, which means ‘sunny peach’. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century that a missionary named Isabel Frasier brought the fruit from China to New Zealand after she visited mission schools in China. In 1906, the first of many Kiwi trees to come was planted by a nurseryman named Alexander Allison and by 1910 the first Kiwifruit in New Zealand were harvested. Many more nurserymen and growers began to plant the kiwifruits starting in Auckland, Wanganui, Fielding, and Tauranga. This new, juicy fruit was not called Kiwi until 1958 when a fruit-packaging firm in Auckland changed its name to the Maori word kiwi.

With the Kiwi making its big début in the United States in 1958, farmers began to take on the challenge of planting and harvesting this new crop. The first successful kiwi harvest was in 1970 and kiwis have been harvested ever since then. The original Kiwi, which is green fleshed, met its (commercially) new relative the golden kiwifruit (Actinidia chinensis) in 1991. The golden kiwifruit was developed in Te Puke, a small town in northern New Zealand. This variety of kiwi is yellow fleshed and has a much thinner skin than the green kiwi. The golden kiwi got the nickname “Chinese Gooseberries” around 1960, due to the resemblance people felt they had to gooseberries. Although the resemblance may be there, these two fruits are not related. Kiwifruit today are grown all around the world in places such as China, New Zealand, North America, South Africa, Turkey, Australia, Italy, Chile and Japan.

Kiwifruit is grown on vines, similar to grapes.

Kiwi is botanically categorized as a berry.

If you are allergic to latex, you are likely to also be allergic to kiwi, avocado, and bananas.

Kiwi were first exported to the United States in 1904.

Invasive Hardy Kiwi: An Emerging Invasive in the Northeastern United States

Description: The genus Actinidia is well known for producing the delicious green kiwifruit common to fruit salads. There are approximately 80 species of Actinidia in the world, with some grown for their berries and others prized for their ornamental vines. Recently, hardy kiwi (Actinidia arguta) is gaining attention as an invasive plant in the United States.

Hardy kiwi’s tenacious growth and resilience to low temperatures have allowed it to take over wooded areas and have a negative impact on habitat, biodiversity and resilience, and trail use. This woody vine has quickly gained momentum in Berkshire County, MA, and in and around Long Island, New York.

Compiled by: Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) with Elizabeth Orenstein, Monica Conlin, and Lisa Levine

Publication date: February 2019

Download link: Invasive Hardy Kiwi: An Emerging Invasive in the Northeastern United States (PDF, 4.6 MB)

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This Kiwifruit Isn’t From New Zealand at All. It’s Chinese, and This Is How It Got Hijacked

The kiwifruit may be New Zealand’s defining agricultural product, generating a handsome $1.05 billion in exports for the country in 2015, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But how the South Pacific nation came to claim the exotic, fuzzy fruit with soft, green flesh and a unique taste is a story that combines considerable luck and a stroke of marketing genius.

The erstwhile Chinese gooseberry, as its archaic English name suggests, finds its root a hemisphere away in China. Its original name in Chinese, mihoutao — “macaque fruit” — refers to the monkeys’ love for it, according to the 16th century Chinese medicine encyclopedia, the Compendium of Materia Medica.

The kiwifruit’s status as a transplant might not come as a surprise for many readers. After all, the story of one of the world’s greatest marketing and botanical hijacks has been vaguely circulating for decades, from a New York Times item about trade in New Zealand over 30 years ago to a TIME column about branding and psychology in 2010.

But the scant documentary evidence of how the fruit made it across the Pacific has given an apocryphal flavor to a tale that is, in fact, all too real.

“There is no formal history of the kiwifruit industry in print, so we have to patch together information about the past from multiple sources,” Hugh Campbell, a sociology professor at New Zealand’s University of Otago, tells TIME by email. He co-authored the entry on the kiwifuit in Te Ara, the official New Zealand online encyclopedia.

Historical consensus — as presented on New Zealand’s official history website — suggests that the first seeds arrived on New Zealand at the turn of the 20th century.

It all began in 1904, when Mary Isabel Fraser, the principal of an all-girls school, brought back some Chinese gooseberry seeds from China. They were then given to a farmer named Alexander Allison who, planted them in his farm near the riverine town of Whanganui. The trees went on to bear their first fruit in 1910.

New Zealand’s appropriation of the Chinese gooseberry wasn’t inevitable. Around the same time the first seeds were introduced to New Zealand, the species was in fact also experimented with as a commercial crop both in the U.K. and the U.S., wrote New Zealand plant physiologist Ross Ferguson, one of the world’s top kiwifruit researchers, for Arnoldia, the magazine of Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum.

But, as luck would have it, neither the British nor the American attempt at commercializing the fruit was as fruitful. For example, the first batch of seeds brought to Britain’s Veitch Nursery all produced male plants, thwarting the growers’ plans to produce edible fruit. The same fate befell the U.S. government’s attempt. “It seems ironic that the sending of seed by a missionary to an amateur gardener should eventually lead to a new horticultural industry, when the efforts of the Veitch Nursery and the U.S. Department of Agriculture were so much less successful,” Ferguson remarked in his 1983 essay.

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The gooseberry’s rebranding didn’t happen until almost 50 years after Allison’s trees bore fruit, according to New Zealand’s official history, when agricultural exporter Turners & Growers started calling their U.S.-bound Chinese gooseberries “kiwifruits” on June 15, 1959.

The fruit’s importer told Turners & Growers that the Chinese gooseberry needed a new name to be commercially viable stateside, to avoid negative connotations of “gooseberries,” which weren’t particularly popular. After passing over another proposed name, melonette, it was finally decided to name the furry, brown fruit after New Zealand’s furry, brown, flightless national bird. It also helped that Kiwis had become the colloquial term for New Zealanders by the time.

Demand for the fruit started to take off, and by the 1970s, the name kiwifruit took root across the Chinese gooseberry trade, cementing its popular imagination as the quintessential New Zealand product. All this happened while China was busy tearing its own social fabric to pieces, during the decade of terror that was the Cultural Revolution.

“I think it was a matter of luck and suitable climate” that the fruit thrived in New Zealand, Ferguson tells TIME. Now an honorary fellow at the New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research, he helped classify the Actinidia deliciosa — the furry, green kiwifruit — as a separate species in the 1980s.

Large-scale cultivation of the kiwifruit can now be found in many countries, including the U.S., Italy and — ironically — China, which became the world’s top kiwifruit producer by 2014, and where the fruit is commonly used to make jam. But much of the kiwifruit grown worldwide can be traced back to Alexander Allison’s Whanganui farm — so much so that the Pacific nation had to try to halt the export of kiwi plants at one point, in order to reduce potential competition on the global market.

Today, even parts of the Chinese-speaking world call the fruit by a partial transliteration of its Oceanic moniker. In Hong Kong and Taiwan, at least, it’s known as strange fruit — qi yi guo in Mandarin, or kei yi gwo in Cantonese. (Google searches of mihoutao still turns up considerable results, but mostly confined to web pages from the People’s Republic.)

And how deliciously ironic that unscrupulous Chinese traders have tried to pass off domestically grown kiwifruits as imports.

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Gardening FAQ

Although the hairy Actinidia deliciosa is the kiwi commonly found in grocery stores, there are several types of kiwi. Hardy kiwifruit (Actinidia arguta) is a small, green fruit with smooth skin, while its cousin the golden kiwi (A. chinensis) is sweeter, rounder and bronze-colored.

Of the three types, hardy kiwi fruit plants tolerate cold temperatures best–as low as -25°F–although they are sensitive to late spring frosts. In the U.S., A. deliciosa is grown primarily in California, although most of the supermarket fruit comes from New Zealand. It can grow in hardiness zones 7-9; the New York City area is on the edge of this range. A cold snap can damage vines. The golden kiwi requires warmer weather, thriving in zones 8-10.

A strong-growing perennial vine with small leaves and bright red stems, the hardy kiwi can grow to 40 feet in length. If not pruned and trained, the vines will grow up trees and over fences. Once established, plants can live for fifty or more years. In early summer, the vines bear small white flowers with chocolate-colored centers on the previous season’s spur growth. They have a fragrance similar to lily-of-the-valley and are pollinated by wind or insects. Greenish-yellow fruits develop in summer and into the fall, and ripen very late in the season.

Hardy kiwi is often grown as an ornamental vine. Most hardy kiwi plants are dioecious; that is they bear either male or female flowers, but not both. For this reason, you need to plant both a male and female plant if you want to harvest fruit. (Some nurseries sell hermaphroditic plants which bear flowers of both sexes, but their performance has been poor.) To ensure pollination and fruit set, purchase at least one male plant for every nine female plants. Avoid planting in frost pockets. Sites with northern exposure are good because they delay early growth in spring, which can be damaged by late frosts. Construct a trellis system or otherwise support vines. Prune plants at least two or three times during the growing season and once during winter.

Kiwifruit can be propagated from cuttings or seeds. To grow plants from seed, remove the seeds from a mature fruit and let them dry for two days. Refrigerate them in moist perlite at 40°F for 4 months. Then plant the seeds no deeper than 1/8 inch in a sterile potting mix and cover the container to keep the humidity high. The soil should be moist but not wet. As soon as the plants germinate, uncover the container. After the seedlings are up, put a thin layer of clean sand on top of the medium. When plants have four true leaves, transplant them to individual pots. At this time, use a liquid fertilizer. Transplant the seedlings to where they will grow when they are several inches tall.

Kiwifruit will not reach maturity and flower until about their fifth year. Fruit matures in October, which may be after the date of the first frost. For this reason it is difficult to harvest vine-ripened fruit. Fruits will ripen in the refrigerator, but their storage life is much shorter than that of the commercially available kiwifruit. Flavor is sweeter, however, in the fuzzless hardy kiwifruit.

Several hardy kiwi cultivars are available through retail nurseries. Improved selections that perform well in New York include ‘Ananasnaja’, ‘Geneva’, ‘Meader’, ‘MSU’, and the 74 series.

For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
– Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service

Kiwis are pear-shaped, flightless birds with long legs and beak. Though they look to be covered in fur, kiwis actually have thin, hair-like feathers. Their closest relatives are the emu, ostrich, cassowary and rhea.


A kiwi is about the size of a chicken. There are five species. The largest is the northern brown kiwi, which grows up to 20 to 25 inches (50 to 65 centimeters) and weighs 3.2 to 11 lbs. (1.4 to 5 kilograms). The smallest is the little spotted kiwi. It grows up to 14 to 18 inches (35 to 45 cm) and weighs 4.3 lbs. (0.8 to 1.9 kg).

The kiwi’s muscular legs make up around a third of its total body weight, and according to the San Diego Zoo, a kiwi can outrun a person.

Kiwis’ wings are tiny, at around 1 inch (3 cm). Each wing has a small claw on the tip, though the claw has no known use.


Kiwis are found only in New Zealand in forests, scrublands and grasslands. They sleep in burrows, hollow logs or under dense vegetation.

A great spotted kiwi. (Image credit: Lakeview Images/)


Kiwis are typically nocturnal, which means they sleep during the day and are active during the night. Throughout the night, they spend their time foraging for food.

When it’s not foraging, it is patrolling its territory. It will leave behind highly odorous droppings to mark its area as it walks. The only other kiwis allowed in its territory are its spouse, its young and its adult children. If another kiwi does wander into another’s territory they will fight.


Kiwis are omnivores. They munch on worms, grubs, bugs, berries and seeds that they find with their excellent sense of smell. Kiwis are the only birds that have nostrils on the tips of their beaks. Most birds have nostrils closer to their faces.


Kiwis sometimes mate for life. Often, though, the female will find a male she likes better and leave her current spouse.

Kiwis have one of the largest egg-to-body weight ratios of any bird. On average, an egg is 15 percent of the female’s body weight, according to the New Zealand Department of Conservation. It can be up to 20 percent of her body weight, though, which is comparable to a 120-lb. (54 kg) woman giving birth to a 24-lb. (11 kg) baby, according to the San Diego Zoo. The female lays one to two eggs at a time, up to three times per year.

Eggs have antibacterial and antifungal properties to ward off bacteria and fungi that are common in the soggy areas of New Zealand. The male in the pair will sit on the eggs until they hatch. The incubation period of a kiwi egg is 75 to 85 days.

Unlike other birds, chicks kick their eggs open and are covered in feathers as soon as they hatch. They look like tiny versions of their parents. After a few days, the chick will leave the burrow and hang out with dad for around 20 days. After that, they may stay in their parent’s territory for a while or trek out to find their own.

Chicks often don’t make it to adulthood. They have a 95 percent chick mortality rate, according to the San Diego Zoo. If they do make it to adulthood, they have very long lives. Kiwis typically live 25 to 50 years.

A northern brown kiwi. (Image credit: ChameleonsEye/)


Here is the taxonomy information for kiwis, according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System:

Kingdom: Animalia Subkingdom: Bilateria Infrakingdom: Deuterostomia Phylum: Chordata Subphylum: Vertebrata Infraphylum: Gnathostomata Superclass: Tetrapoda Class: Aves Order: Apterygiformes Family: Apterygidae Genus: Apteryx Species:

  • Apteryx australis (brown kiwi, southern brown kiwi)
  • Apteryx haastii (great spotted kiwi)
  • Apteryx mantelli (northern brown kiwi)
  • Apteryx owenii (little spotted kiwi)
  • Apteryx rowi (Okarito brown kiwi)

A kiwi crossing warns motorists. New Zealand loses about 20 kiwi per week. (Image credit: Tony Pavelka/

Conservation status

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the southern brown kiwi and the great spotted kiwi are listed as vulnerable. The northern brown kiwi and Okarito brown kiwi are listed as endangered, though the population trend for the northern brown kiwi is currently stable and the population for the Okarito kiwi is increasing. The little spotted kiwi is listed as near threatened with an increasing population.

New Zealand is losing around 2 percent (around 20 per week) of unmanaged kiwi every year, according to the New Zealand Department of Conservation. There are around 68,000 kiwi total in New Zealand.

Other facts

Kiwis have a body temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), the lowest of any bird, according to the San Diego Zoo.

These birds get their names from the sound of their calls. They communicate with others by making “kee-wee, kee-wee” sounds.

The small, fuzzy Chinese gooseberry, native to south Asia, was introduced into New Zealand in 1908, according to Purdue University. Growers there in the 1960s began calling it “kiwifruit” to give it more market appeal.

Additional resources

  • National Geographic: How New Zealand’s Glaciers Shaped The Origin of the Kiwi Bird
  • Animal Diversity Web: Great Spotted Kiwis
  • ADW: Brown Kiwis
  • ADW: Little Spotted Kiwis

Kiwi have many weird and wonderful features thanks to New Zealand’s ancient isolation and lack of mammals. It is thought they evolved to occupy a habitat and lifestyle that elsewhere in the world would be filled by a mammal, and their one-off evolutionary design holds all sorts of biological records.

Quick Kiwi Facts

An average of 27 kiwi are killed by predators EVERY WEEK. That’s a population decline of around 1,400 kiwi every year (or 2%). At this rate, kiwi may disappear from the mainland in our lifetime. Just one hundred years ago, kiwi numbered in the millions.

A single roaming dog can wipe out an entire kiwi population in a matter of days

Approximately 20% of the kiwi population is under management.

In areas under where predators are controlled, 50-60% of chicks survive. When areas are not under management 95% of kiwi die before reaching breeding age.

Only 20% survival rate of kiwi chicks is needed for the population to increase.

Proof of success – on the Coromandel, in the predator controlled area, the kiwi population is doubling every decade.

What’s so unusual?

Kiwi are flightless – their Latin species name is Apteryx, which means wingless. They belong to an ancient group of birds that can’t fly – the ratites. Because they can’t fly, how they arrived in New Zealand is not completely clear.

Kiwi habits and physical characteristics are so like a mammal the bird is sometimes referred to as an honorary mammal. It has feathers like hair, nostrils at the end of its beak and an enormous egg.

Most kiwi are nocturnal birds, like many of New Zealand’s native animals. Their calls pierce the forest air at dusk and dawn.

Kiwi are omnivores. Discover what foods they find with their unusual beak.

Even though kiwi are unusual enough, tall stories abound about the bird.

7 Curious Facts That Prove Kiwis Are Amazing Little Birds

Kiwi are endangered little birds that are native to New Zealand, and act as a fairly adorable unofficial symbol for the country. And, aside from being cute, they have some very unique characteristics which make them exceptionally awesome:

1. Kiwi moms are basically superheroes.

Female kiwis lay one of the largest eggs in relation to their body size of any bird in the world. A kiwi egg takes up about 20% of the female bird’s body, and weighs about 16 oz. To give some perspective, a human baby only takes up about 5% of its mother’s body. As the result of such a sizable egg, there is a higher percentage of yolk in kiwi eggs, which enables the kiwi babies to hatch fully feathered, healthy, and well on their way to independence.

2. They’re ready to go steady.

Kiwi birds are among the few species that tend to live as monogamous couples, and often mate for life. During mating season, the males and females call out to their respective significant others at night, and meet in their nesting burrows every three days. Kiwi relationships have been known to last over 20 years.


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