Tag Archives: Tecomanthe montana

Sole survivor – Tecomanthe speciosa

Tecomanthe speciosa - a sole surviving specimen was found in the wild

Tecomanthe speciosa – a sole surviving specimen was found in the wild

Plants cannot come more endangered than our native Tecomanthe speciosa. Only one has ever been found in the wild and that was back in 1945-6 on Manawa Tawhi, the biggest island of the Three Kings group off the northern coast of New Zealand. Blame the goats which were introduced to our offshore islands, as I understand it, to provide food for shipwrecked sailors back in the days when this was a more common event.

I have a fondness for carpets of fallen blooms

I have a fondness for carpets of fallen blooms

Fortunately T. speciosa is not difficult to propagate and it is its use as a garden plant in frost-free areas of the country that has ensured its survival. I usually miss the autumn flowering on our vines because most of it occurs about 10 metres up in the sky where it has clambered its way up to the light on one of our road boundaries. I only noticed it this season because I happened across the flower carpet below and looked more closely. I must admit that I did not realise it put out clusters of blooms on bare wood in its lower reaches too.

Tecomanthe  venusta

Tecomanthe venusta

There aren’t many tecomanthe species, all of which are members of the bignoniaceae family and evergreen. There seems some agreement on the number five, maybe six. There is our T. speciosa, one maybe two from Queensland in Australia (T. hillii is the most recognised) and three from New Guinea. We have two New Guinea forms here. The first is what we call T. venusta (syn dendrophylla).

It is distinctly tropical but shows the same characteristics as T. speciosa when it comes to putting up strong tendrils and flowering in clusters from bare wood.

Tecomanthe montana

Tecomanthe montana

We had T. hillii which was sold commercially in NZ some years ago but it didn’t look like too much of a gem here so we didn’t take care of it and no longer have it. The real gem for us is not even on the usual lists of species but we have it under the name T. montana from New Guinea. It flowers in mid spring and is much finer leafed, finer growing and more floriferous than its larger two cousins we also grow.

Our native speciosa appears to be the giant in the family. The vines on our well established plant are as thick as human limbs. It also has much larger, glossy leaves. The best plants I have seen have been trained and kept pruned along the verandah fronts of houses. You need a very strong structure to hold them and to be consistent on pruning but it does at least get them flowering well at a level where it is visible.

Vines are large as human limbs on our native T. speciosa

Vines are large as human limbs on our native T. speciosa

On the same botanical survey of the Three Kings that the sole tecomanthe plant was found, another sole remaining specimen of a tree species was found – Pennantia balyisiana.

Plant Collector: Tecomanthe montana

Pink and cream hanging bells of Tecomanthe montana

Pink and cream hanging bells of Tecomanthe montana

Most visitors tend to think that the dainty pink and cream trumpets mean this climber is a lapageria (Chilean bell flower) but far from it. Tecomanthe montana is a tender climber from New Guinea. We tried it in the garden and it survived a couple of years before it succumbed to winter. This plant is grown under complete cover though it has its roots in the ground. It is by far the showiest tecomanthe when in flower.

Apparently there are only five species of tecomanthe. Our own native form, T. speciosa, was found as a single plant on the Three Kings Island and has been saved by commercial production. It has much bigger leaves and is a very strong grower. Unless you train it along a horizontal frame, it tends to shoot up the tallest tree where it will produce its pale lemon trumpets right on top where you can’t see them. We also grow T. venusta under complete cover but it is even more tropical than T. montana and only occasionally flowers for us. When it does, its pink trumpets appear out of the gnarly bare wood of the climbing stems. We gave up on the Queensland species, T. hillii because it mildewed badly with us. All of the tecomanthes are forest climbers from the tropics or sub tropics. Montana came to us from former Pukeiti director, Graham Smith, who gathered the seed in New Guinea. It is not the easiest plant to get established but if you can find the right conditions, it is a winner in spring.

Tikorangi Notes: Friday 12 November, 2010

The very pretty Tecomanthe montana

The very pretty Tecomanthe montana

Latest Posts:

1) Jovellana punctata has been particularly charming in flower in recent weeks.

2) In The Garden This Week – recommended tasks for home gardeners this week as the weather warms up in late spring.

3) Hosta combinations that work – our latest Outdoor Classroom.

Tikorangi NotesThe end of our annual garden festival saw us wandering around like zombies on Monday – talked out and exhausted. It is amazing how 10 days of standing on concrete all day and meeting and greeting can take its toll. The festival is so important to us, delivering up half our annual total of visitors in a quick burst. The weather smiled on us again this year –sun every day and mild temperatures. This is not to be sneezed at in a situation where we start to feel personally responsible for the weather as we host out of town and overseas visitors. The offshore visitors were noticeably dominated by Australians this year.

The Tecomanthe montana which we grow in our meet and greet area was perhaps a little later with its blooming but it had sufficient blooms open to attract attention from visitors, many of whom look at just the flowers and assume it is a lapageria. No, it is a climber from New Guinea and rather tender. The plant we used to have in the garden succumbed to winter cold years ago but this one is under cover and performs consistently every year. The same can not be said of Tecomanthe venusta, which is even more tender. It flowers just often enough to justify our keeping it, but never rivals montana in flower power.