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Tecomanthe hillii (F.Muell.) Stenis 1927
pronounced: tek-oh-MANTH-ee HILL-ee-eye
(Bignoniaceae — the jacaranda family)
common name: Fraser Island Creeper
Tecomanthe comes from Tecoma, abbreviated from the Mexican name of the plant, Tecomaxochitl, and the Greek ανθος (anthos), a flower, anther; hillii is for Walter Hill (1820 – 1904), first curator of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens. Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, is situated off the south-east Queensland coast. As well as the small population of the plant found there, there are also small isolated populations on mainland south-east and north-east Queensland. The plant is not native to Magnetic Island, the plants photographed having been planted in island gardens.
This is quite a rare plant, both in the wild and in gardens. In the garden it is a very well-behaved plant. Unlike its cousins the Pandoreas (to which until recently I thought this plant belonged), or the showy Orange Trumpet Creeper (Pyrostegia venusta), it does not grow too large or rampage too vigorously. It puts out only a few new twining stems each year, and its smallish leaves provide a light cover for the fence, trellis or pergola on which it is growing.
Fraser Island Creeper is a woody evergreen perennial climber which can climb 10 metres up a tree in the forest, or on a trellis or other support in the garden. In its natural state it is found in sandy soils that are close to water sources. It can’t tolerate wet feet, so it needs to be planted in a well-drained position in the garden. Lime is toxic to the plant, and so it should be planted well away from any cement structure, including the foundations of buildings.
The bark of its twining stems, which can grow quite thick (to about 2 cm in diameter) is dark grey, and the leaves are pinnate, with 5 leaflets. The glossy dark green leaflets have a rounded base and a pointed tip.
The tubular flowers, which are not fragrant, are lipstick pink in colour, pinkish cream throated, about 5 – 8.5 cm long, and occur in skirt-like clusters on old growth, usually during October, but sometimes as early as June. The flowering lasts several weeks, and the climber still looks tidy and attractive when not in flower.
The fruit is a woody capsule about 5 cm long, and the filmy seeds are wind dispersed.
This is an ideal courtyard plant to grow on a sturdy trellis, over a pergola, or even up a largish, already well-established tree. It can also be grown in a pot, and brought inside when it is in flower, when it will make a spectacular indoor feature plant. A plant grown in full sun will have a more compact growth habit than one grown in the shade. If the plant becomes too leggy, it can be cut back and transplanted. Pollination is effected by native bees, moths and insects, as well as by honeyeaters. Propagation can be by seed or cutting.
While the plant requires regular watering during the growth season from spring to autumn, water should be restricted during the winter rest. In early spring it should be fertilized with a low-phosphorus fertilizer.
Photographs taken at Picnic Bay 2010, Arcadia 2014
Page last updated 25th February 2017