Solandra maxima

cup of gold vine


Solandra maxima

(Sessé & Moç.) P.S.Green 1967

pronounced: soh-LAN-druh MAKS-ih-muh

(Solanaceae — the nightshade family)


common names: cup of gold vine, golden chalice vine, Hawaiian lily

Solandra is named for the Swedish botanist Daniel Solander (1733-1782), who accompanied Banks on Cook’s first voyage in 1770; maxima is from the Latin maximus, largest. The plant is endemic to Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. Other species of the genus occur in the West Indies.

This plant is a woody, thick-stemmed, scrambling climber up to 9 m or more. The ropelike stems branch frequently, and root at their nodes, and can run for more than 60 m, clinging with aerial rootlets and scrambling over everything in the way.

The evergreen leaves are leathery, about 15 cm long and elliptic, with prominent lighter-coloured midribs and lateral veins.

The flowers are truly spectacular, shaped like a chalice, 15 – 25 cm long, flaring open to 10–18 cm across. The 5 lobes of the corolla are reflexed, and each lobe is marked with a narrow purplish ridge on the inside. The flowers open from an almost spherical bud, starting out yellow, and turn a deeper golden colour as they age. They are fragrant, especially at night, and smell rather like coconut.

The fruits, rarely seen in cultivation, are spherical berries, about 5 cm in diameter.

The vine is fast-growing, and thrives in almost any well-drained soil, either in full sun or in partial shade. It tolerates severe pruning and blossoms on new growth, and therefore can be cut back at any time of the year. This is a heavy vine, and it requires a very strong support. It grows best with regular watering, but blooms best when water is withheld. It is fairly tolerant of salt spay and salty soils, so is a good choice for a seaside garden.

This genus is related to the angel trumpets (Datura spp. and Brugmansia spp.), and, like them, has hallucinogenic properties – it is used in sacred ceremonies in Mexico.

dangerous 2The flowers, and probably all other parts of the vine, are poisonous.


Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2011-2014
Page last updated 5th April 2019