Bignonia magnifica

glow vine


Bignonia magnifica

W.Bull 1879

pronounced: big-NOH-nee-uh mag-NIFF-ick-uh

(Bignoniaceae — the jacaranda family)

synonym — Saritaea magnifica

(W.Bull) Dugand 1945

pronounced: sar-it-EE-uh mag-NIFF-ick-uh

common names: glow vine, purple funnel vine

Bignonia was named for the Abbé Jean Paul Bignon, early 18th century New Latin librarian to Louis XIV. There is no prize for guessing what magnifica means. The plant comes from Colombia, Ecuador and Panama, and is the only species in its genus. It was named by Armando Dugard (1906–1971), a Colombian botanist. I have been unable to find the derivation of Saritaea.

The plant was introduced into Brazil by Roberto Burle Marx, a Brazilian landscape architect and plant collector. Its popularity in that country has led to its export to other countries with tropical or sub-tropical climates, and it is gradually becoming better known.

This is a woody climber, its stems almost round in cross-section, and marked by longitudinal stripes. The ovate-elliptic leaves grow up to about 10 cm in length; they have 2 leaflets and a further 2 leaflet-like appendages at the base of the leaf stalk, plus a terminal leaflet that is often absent, or modified into a branched tendril. The leaves are smooth and leathery. The plant is a very spectacular flowering evergreen climber, up to about 6 m long. It does best in light shade. This vine has a dense dark green foliage which is very ornamental even when the plant is not in bloom.

The large heads of showy rosy mauve to purple flowers, 8 cm long, whitish or light pink in the throat with longitudinal purple veins, are borne at the ends of the branches, and can appear for most of the year. They have almost no stalk, and a narrow tube opens into rounded petals. The sepal cup is bell-shaped.

In the vine’s natural habitat, the nectar from its flowers is collected by the male bees of the tropical genus Euglossa, who pollinate the flowers by brushing against the pollen and transferring it. These Orchid Bees, as they are often known, are fascinating insects. The females live in small mud nests that house either a mother and her daughters, or all sisters. They neither make nor store honey, and have no queen. The males leave the nest upon hatching, and do not return. These male bees have uniquely modified legs that are used to collect and store volatile compounds from many plants, especially orchids.

The fruit is a long flattened capsule containing 2-winged seeds. The plant may be propagated either from seeds or from cuttings.

This is now regarded as an environmental weed in parts of the  Atherton Tableland in northern Queensland. It is spreading in the Kuranda area and near the Barron River.


Photographed in Picnic Bay 2010 - 2014
Page last updated 24th January, 2020