Plant of the month: September
Also Known As: snail vine
Native To: tropical South America
Blooms: late summer to autumn
Habitat: Edge of warm temperate forests
Where Found At Birmingham Botanical Gardens: Mediterranean House
This tender, vigorous climber belongs to the pea and bean family; Leguminosae. It has trifoliate leaves and curiously shaped, snail-like flowers that smell of hyacinths. The sugary nectar in the flowers attract ants. The ants drink the nectar and accidentally spread pollen from flower to flower; pollinating them. Its bean-like seed pods follow shortly afterwards.
The snail vine likes consistent moisture at the root and full sun with heat and high humidity.
In the winter the plant often dies down to its roots; completely losing the top growth and becomes dormant. It regrows vigorously with warmer spring days and can become rampant during the summer months. It prefers a minimum winter temperature of 10c.
It’s genus; Vigna, honours Dominicus Vigna (1581-1647), an Italian botanist, professor and scientist.
The specific epithet; caracalla, honours Caracas, Venezuela, which is part of the native habitat of this plant.