Friday, February 27, 2015

Butterfly Vine

The Mandarin Garden Club hosts a Mascagnia macroptera, more commonly known as Butterfly Vine, Yellow Orchid Vine or Gallinita. However, in the horticulture trade the correct botanical name is Callaeum macropterum and the names are not interchangeable.This is one of those plants that should be researched via the botanical name. If you use common names, you may run across another plant entirely, called the Butterfly Pea Vine, Clitoria ternatea (also on the grounds of the Mandarin Garden Club). To add to the confusion, Mascagnia was previously classified as Stigmaphyllon ciliatum.

Butterfly Vine is considered a native of Mexico and is well-suited to a western exposure because of its high heat tolerance. Although fairly drought tolerant, it looks better with regular watering as long as you don't over water. It is thornless, disease free and unattractive to pests. 

Plant it in full sun to light shade and water to get it well-established. Afterwards, this vine will be very drought tolerant and require little maintenance other than pruning. Best suited for USDA Zones 8-10 where it remains evergreen in mild winters but is cold hardy to the mid-20s. It grows fast enough to be considered an annual in climates colder than Zone 8 but it is best to plant it in a protected area. If may freeze to the ground but will sprout again in the spring. It can be grown in a container, on a pole or fence, trellised, pruned as a flowing branched shrub, or grown as a ground cover.

From May to September, this vine produces clusters of showy, yellow orchid-shaped flowers with 5 petals about 1-inch wide. These are followed by clusters of papery, winged chartreuse seed pods resembling a butterfly. Allow these seed pods to dry on the plant. Once brown, use your thumbnails to pull the butterfly "body" apart and collect the seeds. Semi-softwood cuttings can be taken in late spring or early fall. These cuttings will be ready for transplant in less than three months.

Be sure to take a look at the Mandarin Garden Club’s Butterfly Vine to see this unusual plant for yourself. It’s in that area between the main building and the shed. In the flower bed at the wall of the shed, you'll find it on a trellis.

Linda Jones
Cherokee Rose

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