Cape honeysuckle
Stable

Cape Honeysuckle

Tecomaria capensis
  • DIVISION: Tracheophyta
  • CLASS: Magnoliopsida
  • ORDER: Lamiales
  • FAMILY: Bignoniaceae
  • GENUS: Tecomaria (or Tecoma)
  • SPECIES: capensis

OVERVIEW

You’ll find Cape honeysuckle growing wild throughout much of South Africa, Swaziland, and southern Mozambique—in bush, scrub, or at the edges of forests. You are likely to find it cultivated in other places, too; it’s a popular landscape plant in California, Hawaii, and parts of Southeast Asia. Only distantly related to true honeysuckle, this plant’s bright flowers attract pollinators like nectar-feeding birds, butterflies, and bees. In its native South Africa, it is favored—and often pollinated— by sunbirds.

CHARACTERISTICS

Cape honeysuckle is a scrambling, multi-stemmed shrub that can spread to 8 feet (2.4 meters) tall and 6 feet (1.8 meters) wide. With the proper support, it can be a vine that trails 20 feet (6 meters) long, but it can also be kept trimmed to form a hedge or a more compact shrub. Branches will root where they touch the ground, so it has the potential to cover large swaths of ground.

Whatever form this plant takes, its pinnately compound leaves are deep green and glossy, with five to nine, rather diamond-shaped, two-inch (five-centimeter) leaflets. Cheery, bright orange (sometimes yellow or red), tubular flowers grow in profuse clusters, and Cape honeysuckle blooms nearly year-round. Each flower in the cluster is about two inches (five centimeters) long. Papery winged seeds develop in long capsules and scatter in the wind when the capsule opens.

CULTIVATION

You can grow Cape honeysuckle from a cutting, and it grows quickly in full sun or limited shade. It will create a mass of flowers as it rambles over a hard-to-maintain slope, or take center stage as a specimen shrub in a small garden. It makes a lovely trimmed hedge or (supported) a trailing vine. Best of all, it’s easy to grow: slightly acidic or alkaline soils are okay as long as it gets good drainage. This hardy shrub is tolerant of salt spray, resistant to deer, and—once it’s established—drought-resistant. It’s typically a perennial, but may drop leaves in winter if it gets very cold.

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CONSERVATION

Cape honeysuckle isn’t endangered, but it may be endangering native plants in parts of Australia, Hawaii, and Central Florida—where it has escaped cultivation and naturalized.

TECOMA-XOCHITL

This plant’s genus name comes from a similar species, known as tecoma-xochitl, which grows in Mexico. Xochitl is the Nahuatl (Aztec language) word for “flower.”

OF THE CAPE

This plant’s species name, capensis, means, “of the cape,” and it is a reference to the Cape of Good Hope, at the southern tip of Africa.

TRUMPET VINE

Cape honeysuckle is a member of the Bignoniaceae family, which is sometimes called the “trumpet-vine family.”

HUMMINGBIRDS

Africa has no hummingbirds. The similarly adapted sunbirds pollinate Cape honeysuckle when they sip nectar from the flowers. When this plant is grown in the Americas—where there are no sunbirds—hummingbirds take over the job.

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