Plant Collector: Pyrostegia venusta

Pyrostegia venusta

Pyrostegia venusta

Like a bright beacon from the tropics on a bleak winter’s day, is this somewhat rampant climber with its common name of the flame vine. It is usually associated with Brazil, probably because that is where it was first collected for the west, but in fact occurs naturally throughout Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia as well. Unfortunately, it is proving a bit weedy in some parts of the world because it can be invasive but there does not seem to be any record of problems in this country. It is frost tender.

It is a member of the Bignoniaceae family, for the botanically minded, and is evergreen. In the wild, it reportedly flowers in the cool, dry season and is pollinated by humming birds. I have long regretted the absence of exotic little humming birds in my life and the fact ours never sets seed may be due to the lack of a pollinator. Given its rampant growth, this is probably a good thing. Ours is growing outdoors against a warm wall and it is a bit of a miracle that it flowers at all, given that our cooler seasons are invariably wet. Photos on the internet suggest that it may be a great deal more floriferous in drier, warmer climates. It does, however, continually stage a takeover bid for the garage and we regularly hack it back. At this time of the year, its exotic flowers remind me of why it is still in the garden here.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

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