Looking lovely in the garden now is the Purple Velvet Bean vine, Mucuna cyclocarpa. This lowland native to Southeastern China makes a superb deciduous vine that flowers non-stop from mid-summer until fall. To us, the bizarre fleshy flower clusters look like those characters from the old Fruit of the Loom commercials. Interestingly, we must not have the pollinators it needs in our region, since it never sets any seed unless hand pollinated. One of the other species, Mucuna pruriens, has been widely studied, and found to have countless medicinal properties, but it doesn’t seem that M. cyclocarpa has been studied so far. All plants in the US seem to trace back to the former Yucca Do Nursery, who obtained seed from a visiting Chinese researcher.
Looking lovely at JLBG now is the purportedly tropical vine, Combretum indicum. Native from a wide range of Southeast Asia, Rangoon creeper is a woody vine that’s shockingly winter hardy, as our plants sailed through last years 11 degrees F–despite it usually being listed as a Zone 10/11 plant.
The flowers usually open white, age to pink and then red, but this year, they have opened red–we’re not sure why. The tubular flowers are a favorite of long-tongued moths. It has grown much slower for us than it would in warmer climates, since our plant dies to the ground each winter. This year, our three year old plant has already returned to 8′ in height.