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the web of life in southern Africa

Actinidia deliciosa (Kiwifruit, Chinese gooseberry)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Asterids > Order: Ericales > Family: Actinidiaceae > Genus: Actinidia


Kiwifruit only came under cultivation in the 20th Century. It is native to China but New Zealand is the country that pioneered its cultivation. 

Actinidia deliciosa was once mainly known as Chinese gooseberry but through marketing by New Zealand fruit growers, it is now known as Kiwifruit, which is actually quite a good name because its furry, round shape is reminiscent of the appearance of a Kiwi. The name change also reflects its history because it is native to southeastern China but it was the New Zealanders that developed cultivars and marketed it.

History of domestication 

Year Event
1900 First recorded planting, by foreigners living in the Yangtze Valley, China.
1904 Seeds first grown on New Zealand's North Island. By 1910 plants were being grown not only in New Zealnd but also in California.
1930 By the 1930's New Zealanders had developed named cultivars, 'Hayward' being the main cultivar. Not much was going on in California.
1945  Widescale planting of Kiwifruit took place on North Island of New Zealand after the 2nd World War.  
1960's New Zealand monopolised the market till the late 1960's when California started growing it on a large scale.
1980's Since the 1980's other countries such as Chile and Australia have also entered the market. 

Advantageous properties of Kiwifruit

  • It contains high Vitamin C levels, evidently exceeding those of any citrus fruit.
  • It has a proteolytic enzyme that has meat tenderizer type properties.
  • It can survive for long periods after picking. After reaching full size, the fruit can take as long as two months to ripen but this can be speeded up by exposing them to ethylene gas which in a household situation can be achieved by keeping them enclosed with bananas or apples. They can be kept 4-6 months in cold storage. These long storage periods are particularly favourable to New Zealand growers because they are so far from the European and American markets.



  • Sauer, J.D. 1993. Historical geography of crop plants - a select roster. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.

  • van Wyk, B.-E. 2005. Food Plants of the World - Identification, Culinary Uses and Nutritional Value. Briza, Pretoria.

Text by Hamish Robertson