The genus includes shrubs growing to 6 m (20 ft) tall, and vigorous, strong-growing vines, growing up to 30 m (98 ft) in tree canopies. The fruit is a large berry containing numerous small seeds; in most species, the fruit is edible.
It is closely related to Actinidia deliciosa.
Kiwifruit is native to southern China, and has been declared the national fruit of that country. Other species of Actinidia are also found in China and range east to Japan and north into southeastern Siberia. The true Chinese gooseberry (A. sinensis) is native to China. Almost all kiwifruit in commerce belong to a few cultivars of Actinidia deliciosa, and those fruit that we find at local markets is grown in New Zealand. This name "kiwifruit" comes from the kiwi - a brown flightless bird and New Zealand's national symbol, and also a colloquial name for the New Zealand people.
The oblong fruits are up to 3" long. The russet-brown skin of the fruits is densely covered with short, stiff brown hairs. The flesh is firm until fully ripen; it is glistening, juicy and luscious. The color of the flesh is bright-green, or sometimes yellow, brownish or off-white, except for the white, succulent center from which radiate many fine, pale lines.
This lovely twiner with its fuzzy leaves, is ideal for trellis growing. The plant is a vigorous, woody vine (liana) or climbing shrub. Young leaves are coated with red hairs; mature leaves are dark-green and hairless on the upper surface, downy-white with prominent, light-colored veins beneath. The flowers are fragrant, dioecious or bisexual. Male and female flowers appear on different plants and both sexes have to be planted in close proximity for fruit set. Bees are normally used by commercial orchards, although the more labor intensive hand pollination is sometimes employed. Male flowers are gathered and processed to extract their pollen. This is then sprayed back on to the female flowers.
Actinidia kolomikta is an ornamental plant for gardens and a houseplant. This species needs both a male and female plant to produce its sweet, grape-sized fruit.
The plant is attractive to cats, which find it more attractive than catnip or valerian and can severely damage the vine.
The fast-growing, climbing vine is very hardy, and is capable of surviving slow temperature drops to -34 C (-30 F), although young shoots can be vulnerable to frost in the spring. This vine needs a strong (vines are heavy) support structure on which to grow such as a trellis, arbor, patio overhead, fence or wall.