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Tecoma capensis (Thunb.) Lindl. 1828
pronounced: tek-OH-muh kap-EN-siss
(Bignoniaceae — the jacaranda family)
synonym: Tecomaria capensis (Thunb.) Spach 1840
pronounced: tek-oh-MAR-ee-uh kap-EN-siss
common name: Cape Honeysuckle
Tecoma is abbreviated from the Mexican name of the plant, Tecomaxochitl. Capensis means ‘of or from the cape’, i.e. the Cape of Good Hope region of Southern Africa. Although it originates there, it has escaped and become naturalized in disturbed areas of Hawaii and central Florida.
The Cape Honeysuckle is more of a sprawler than a climber, and is probably best described as a quasiclimber†. It is a very adaptable evergreen plant than can be left to ramble, or pruned to form an attractive shrub, hedge or screen. It is sometimes trained as an espalier, and can be trained as a garden arch.
The pinnately compound leaves are about 15 cm long, glossy green, of 5–7 opposite pairs of oval to orbicular serrate leaflets, each up to 5 cm long, with a terminal leaflet that is generally more pointed than the others. The petioles are 1–2 cm long, and the lateral petioles only a millimetre or two long.
The flowers are trumpet-shaped, about 5 cm long, with the tube curved, produced in clusters, and a vivid orange-red colour, with the stamens and style exserted. The flowering period, locally, can be quite long, mostly during the cooler weather. There is a cultivar ‘Apricot’ that is smaller, more compact, and has orange flowers. ‘Coccinea’ has scarlet flowers, and ‘Salmonea’ pink to orange. The variety Tecoma capensis ‘Aurea’ has yellow flowers and is slower growing.
Cape Honeysuckle grows equally well in full sun or part shade. It does better when there is some protection from wind. If it is to be pruned for hedging purposes, a hard prune should be done annually after flowering. If required, crowded branches may be thinned in spring. Propagation is from seed and semi-hardwood cuttings taken in summer, or by layering, something that the plant does naturally. If it is pruned to shrub shape, it can reach about 3 m in height. If left to scramble, it can cover 7 m or more.
This is a very attractive plant, and I am surprised that it is not more commonly grown on the island.
† quasi is Latin for 'as if, almost'
Photographs taken at Picnic Bay 2011
Page last updated 25th February 2017