Vigna caracalla

Plant of the month: September

Vigna caracalla

Also known as: Snail Vine

Native to: Tropical South America

Blooms: Late summer to autumn

Habitat: Edge of warm temperate forests

Where is it found at BBG: 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, they drink the nectar and 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 becoming dormant. It then regrows vigorously in the 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.