Thunbergia erecta

king's mantle


Thunbergia erecta

(Benth.) T.Anderson 1864

pronounced: thun-BER-ghee-uh ee-RECK-tuh

(Acanthaceae — the black-eyed Susan family)


common names: king's mantle, bush clock vine

Thunbergia was named for Carl Peter Thunberg (1743–1828), Swedish naturalist, explorer and pupil of Linnaeus; erecta is from the Latin erectus, upright.

Many of the Thunbergia genus are vines and creepers, but this one is a sprawling shrub. Its blue flowers resemble those of Morning Glory. This native of tropical Africa is very useful in mixed beds or as a low hedge. It has attractive, small, dark green, ovate-elliptic leaves with entire margins, arranged oppositely on thin brown stems, and an abundant display of tubular flowers that in the most common form are a rich purple with a yellow throat. There is also a white-flowering form that is not so robust, and has smaller leaves. Thunbergia erecta will grow to nearly 2 m in both height and width, responds well to regular pruning and can be shaped into a very bushy shrub. The downside of this shaping is a reduction in the number of flowers.

The plant prefers full sun and well-drained soil, although it will bloom in partial shade. Propagation is by means of cuttings, seed, or by layering. The plant is deciduous.

The flowers often come as a surprise, as the buds mostly hide in the foliage until the blooms pop out. The flowers grow to about 3 cm long, and may appear singly or in pairs in the leaf axils. They are slightly fragrant. The flower tube is slightly conical at the base, swelling above, and distinctly curved. It flares open into 5 petals.

The plant produces rounded seed capsules that end in a beak.


Photographs taken at Picnic Bay 2011, 2014, Arcadia 2014
Page last updated 20th April 2019