Summer Heat

Astronomically speaking, it’s still spring, but for some people summer starts with the arrival of truly hot weather, or with Memorial Day. For me, summer starts with the first sighting of the hot orange-red flowers of trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans, Bignoniaceae). Look at this magnificent specimen dominating a snag by the Potomac (click on the photo).  —>

This species grows impressively long vines (40 feet, by some account), 
with impressively large flowers (up to four inches long).

And with that, I’m off to check on the irises, and see what else is happening along the river this week.


Radiant Trumpets

Nothing says summer quite like the hot orange-red blossoms of trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans). Although the shape is similar to flowers in the Convolvulaceae (see yesterday’s post), this plant is in a different family, the Bignoniaceae.


It’s a vigorous grower, reaching thirty feet long or more, and will grow up or along anything that its aerial rootlets can attach to: trees, boulders, cliff faces. It’s all over the rock walls along the Clara Barton Parkway in DC.

Trumpet creeper can be found in most of the eastern US except for northern New England, and in a few scattered locations in the West. It’s considered weedy by some authorities.

There’s only one other species in this genus, C. grandiflora, which is native to east Asia.

I spent some time looking on the internet for any interesting trivia. The only thing I could find is that another common name is cow-itch, a name that is applied to other species as well. Why cow-itch? No idea. Apparently some people have a mild reaction when it touches their skin, but cow-itch? Beats me.

Flower of the Day: Trumpet Creeper

Campsis radicans; Bignoniaceae (bignonia family)


There are always small, subtle flowers to be found, but now is the time of year for big, showy flowers.  Trumpet creeper practically shouts for you to come have a look.  It grows along the rock walls of the Clara Barton Parkway, and the flowers are so large (2-3 inches long) and bright you can see them as you’re driving by.

It’s a woody vine that grows vigorously to thirty feet long, so think twice before buying one for the garden, unless you have a very large area that you’re trying to naturalize.  It does attract hummingbirds.

By the way, if you are interested in native plant gardening and attracting wildlife, read this very interesting article before buying plants at the nursery. Many native plant cultivars developed for the garden are far enough removed from their native form that animals don’t recognize them.  They’re useless.