Friday, June 22, 2012

The Hummingbird Vine

The hot days of summer awaken a ubiquitous and showy native plant of the Shire:
the trumpet creeper, campsis radicans.

According to Alice M. Coats
 in her book Garden Shrubs and their Histories,
cited in, campsis radicans was first discovered
by early Virginia colonists
who referred to the plant alternately as jasmine, honeysuckle, or bellflower.
And according to this web site by Fairfax County Public Schools,

the trumpet vine is also called "cow itch vine"
because the leaves can cause a rash similar to the dreaded poison ivy.

Today, this plant's polite name is hummingbird vine
because the long trumpet flowers attract ruby-throated hummingbirds.
But I usually call it trumpet vine.

The orange-red trumpet vine is seldom cultivated in home gardens;
it's most often found wrapping itself around utility poles
along hot, sun-baked roadways.
For that reason it's often considered a weed, a nuisance, or a sign of neglect.
But with nowhere to climb, it takes on a shrubby form
like this one at First Landing State Park on the beach side:

As shrub or vine, the plant provides cover for birds
like goldfinches or sparrows,
and nectar for hummingbirds and bees.
But cows and humans would best admire it, or condemn it, from afar.

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