Another lovely vine

The other day I talked about the hyacinth bean vine, and how it is the star of my garden right now. Well, there's another vine that is a close second, and that's what I want to show you today.


It's Vigna caracalla or "snail vine" (sometimes called "corkscrew vine"). Its weird and wonderful flowers are a delight right now in my garden.

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I got a late start on this plant this year, so it should have been blooming months ago, but the flowers have only shown up in the last few weeks.


Did I mention they're fragrant? Wonderfully so.

I grew this a few years ago, after ordering it as a plant. Although the flowers were nice enough, they never really had the impact of the flowers I had seen when first researching this plant, and they never were fragrant. This is what the flowers looked like:


Even taking into account the better camera I have now, you can see that the flower isn't nearly as colorful as those of the current plant, and they really don't look the same either.

There is some confusion about the name of this plant, and some people say that these are two different species. In fact, the most reputable literature seems to indicate that there is but a single species, perhaps with different forms or "cultivars". Vigna phaseolus or Vigna giganteus are the names you sometimes find attached to the vine shown in the photo above.

(As a bamboo grower I'm all too familiar with confusion on names of species or varieties, as bamboos are often reclassified and renamed as they're studied longer.)

In any case, I'm growing "the good one" now, and will continue to do so as long as I can. I've got it growing on the deck stairs railing:


This way we can always smell the sweet perfume produced by these clusters, even if we're just sitting out on the deck.

You can see that the blooms elongate as they form, spiraling out until they open. Looks a bit like a snail shell I guess.



Although it's not really easy to tell if there is really an opening.


The flowers fade to a deep yellow just before they drop, which I'm not sure that I like too much (it looks like they're turning brown to me) but it's a small negative against a long list of positives.


The foliage is quite nice too, and it stands up to the heat of summer pretty well:



I've not seen any bees or other pollinators visit these flowers (perhaps because there really is no opening?), but the ants seem to like them:


Maybe they're just coming in for a closer look at the beauty of it. I know I would if I were an ant.


Snail vine (Vigna caracalla). I highly recommend this vine.

Now I just need to figure out my overwintering strategy. I'll probably take a few cuttings and root them (which was quite easy with the previous version of this plant), and will try digging up the rootball and storing it in the garage, dormant for the winter.

Even if my efforts fail, I still have a few seeds left from this year -- from what I've read it's rare to actually get some seeds from the vine so I won't have dozens and dozens of them as I do from every other vine I grow -- so you'll definitely see this plant in my yard again next year.

And the year after, and after that, and again after that.

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Chad B  – (October 12, 2011 at 12:26 PM)  

Very cool-looking plant. I don't think I've seen that vine before. Thanks for sharing.

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