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Growing Cochliasanthus caracalla (Corkscrew Vine)

Category Flowers
This beautiful flowering vine originates from Central and South America. The distinctive flowers have a fragrance similar to a hyacinth. This is a guide about growing Cochliasanthus caracalla (corkscrew vine).


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September 19, 2017

I've gotten some private messages asking for further information on the corkscrew vine (Vigna Caracalla). I'm making this post so all who are interested can share this information.


The Vigna blooms rather late in the season when grown in the U.S. This is understandable as the US is much farther north than the plant's native tropical habitat. For this reason, I overwintered a plant indoors, rather than starting a new plant from seed in the spring. My purpose was to see if starting with an established plant in the spring would give me blooms earlier than when starting from seed.

My findings: The established plant produced blooms no earlier in the season than when starting from seed. As of September 19, I'm seeing my first beginnings of a bloom. I am in zone 7b. Plants grown further south may produce blooms a bit earlier, and plants grown further north may bloom a bit later.

I don't think the length of growing time is the only factor here. I'm sure the amount of daylight hours and the incremental shortening of those hours, along with other factors, all play a part in when the plant blooms.

The blooms of the Vigna Caracalla are so beautiful and so unique, most people find the rather long wait to be well worth it.


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August 19, 2016

This vine has the common names, corkscrew vine and snail vine, among others. These two names are rather suitable as the plant bloom is a bit reminiscent of either. However, the corkscrew vine and the snail vine are actually two different plants. The corkscrew vine being 'Cochliasanthus caracalla', and the snail vine being 'Phaseolus giganteus'.


The plant's botanical name is in question. We do know the plant is in the Fabaceae (bean) family. Taxonomists like to move it in and out of the genus, Vigna.

For now, I will settle for the name, Cochliasanthus caracalla. Cochlia referring to the bloom structure resembling an inner ear structure, the cochlea, and 'caracalla' being derived from the Portuguese 'caracol', meaning snail. 'Caracalla' is easy to say, remember and spell, and since no other plant has this name, it will be my choice of names for this plant. It is said that Thomas Jefferson called the Caracalla, 'The most beautiful bean in the world'.

The Caracalla originates from Central and South America. The often twelve inch clusters of flowers have a fragrance not unlike that of the hyacinth. The vine is said to reach a length of twenty-five feet. The plants I am growing are young, just beginning to bloom, and they have far surpassed that length.

This is my first time to grow Caracalla. The cost of the seed was prohibitive. I did yield to that cost, this year. The final cost for five seeds was about eleven dollars.

Seedsmen 'justify' that cost by reporting the 'rarity' of the seed. The truth is, one seed could easily produce hundreds of seeds. The seed are by no means 'rare'. Later this season, I expect to harvest many more seed than I could ever use. These seeds will be available for free to anyone who should want them.

The pictured bloom is just a few days old. The colors and configuration of the bloom change as it matures. I hope to be adding more pictures to this post as more blooms and clusters of blooms, develop.

This vine can be rooted from cuttings. This is good. I plan to take a cutting and grow it in a pot. I want to see how well it responds to heavy pruning. If it grows and blooms well as a potted plant, I may choose to always grow them that way, because....

I have nowhere to hang my clothes to dry. I have four clotheslines about 25 feet each. These four plants have overtaken all the lines. A small sacrifice, really, though. When that 100 feet are completely covered with 12 inch clusters of beautiful flowers emitting a heavy hyacinth odor, I will be glad to hang my clothes on a nearby tree.


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September 29, 2017

I've done 5 posts on a certain vine and still don't know what to call it. I think it could correctly be called Cochliasanthus caracalla. The 'Cochliasanthus' alludes to the similarity of the configuration of the flowers to the cochlea, the auditory portion of the middle ear.


The cochlea is spiral shaped like a snail. That would account for one of the common names given to this vine, 'snail vine'. The shell of certain marine animals have this spiral configuration which would account for another common name for this vine, that being the 'shell vine'.

There is another popular common name for this vine, the 'corkscrew vine', although there is little likeness of the vine's flower to a corkscrew. 'Corkscrew' may be the most popular common name.

All the above names are well and good except they are also used to refer to another vine 'Phaseolus giganteus'. And with Wikipedia contradicting itself as to the official name of this vine, just what should the vine be called?

Taxonomists are now certain they have correctly placed this vine as Vigna, a genus of the Fabaceae family and have given its name as Vigna caracalla. I like this 'new' appellation because it is easy to pronounce and would serve well as both a common name and an official name. And too, when using it, there would be no confusion with that other vine, 'Phaseolus'.

So, fellow gardeners, what say ye? What are your thoughts on referring to this vine simply as Vigna? Not snail, not shell, not Cochliasanthus, and not corkscrew, just Vigna? I know old habits are hard to break, but don't you think 'Vigna' sounds so nice?

The above lengthy prelude serves as an introduction to the heart of this post, the wisteria serving double duty.

Last year, for the first time, I grew the Vigna vine. I let it sprawl on my clothes line. It was beautiful, but in short order, it covered the whole line. I didn't want that to happen again this year.

Having a young wisteria standard (tree form) in my back yard, I decided to keep the Vigna in a 5 gallon bucket and let it grow up and around the wisteria. Here is where the wisteria serves double duty. Not only will it be covered with its own blooms in early spring; in late summer and early fall it, (hopefully) will be covered with the blooms of the Vigna vine. So far, so good.

Here is an (obviously edited) picture of the vine in a bucket under the wisteria.

My Vigna has grown up the wisteria and has wrapped itself around the wisteria, several times. And as of now, September 27, it has begun to bloom. With the Vigna being such a prolific bloomer, and with having at least another full month of bloom time, I hope soon, the wisteria will be completely covered in Vigna blooms.

Do wish me luck with this little project, and if there soon is a nice display of Vigna blooms on the wisteria tree, I will burden my fellow members with at least one more picture. Yes!

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September 21, 2016

ThriftyFun's slogan is 'ThriftyFun is powered by your wisdom! My tip: Share that wisdom (and/or knowledge). I am trying to hand fertilize my caracalla flowers and don't know if I am anywhere near to doing it correctly.

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January 30, 2017

This flower is beautiful. It has a delicious fragrance somewhat like the lilac, though much heavier and sweeter. A light breeze will bring a concentration of perfume from this flower to the nose. So, what is the name of this pretty and sweetly scented flower?

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January 19, 20170 found this helpful

Bringing tender plants indoors for the winter can help with not having to replace them every year. This is a guide about overwintering cochliasanthus caracalla (corkscrew vine).

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Share on ThriftyFunCheck out these photos. Click at right to share your own photo in this guide.

September 7, 2016

Photo Description
I mentioned earlier in another post that I would be glad to hang my clothes on a tree if these Caracalla vines completely covered my clothes line. Well, that time is just a few days away. Once these things start blooming, they go wild!

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September 9, 2016

Photo Description
OK, Y'all

This is my last Caracalla picture, this season. If it inspires just one person to grow this beautiful vine next year. I will be happy.

The vine is tropical. The first freeze will kill it, here in my zone 7b. I hope it will have made seed, by then. In case it doesn't, I'm rooting cuttings to overwinter inside. If they survive, I will see how they do as heavily pruned potted plants. And of course, I will let you all know.

Should I name my next progeny Cara, middle name Calla (with the parents approval, of course, and only if it's a girl)? A sophisticated variation of Cary, if you will. Sounds nice to me. (I may have started a trend, here).

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October 6, 2016

Photo Description
I don't know what this creature is. Maybe a butterfly? Maybe a moth? In my infinite wisdom, I, in another post, accused this little creature of not knowing what it was doing. It and its kin were feverishly searching the caracalla blooms for nectar, apparently not finding any.

After careful and lengthy observation, I have to admit, my wisdom/knowledge is only par with my fellow beings. These charming little creatures have no knowledge of my ignorance; they just follow the dictates of the program Nature has instilled in them. And they happily find much sweet nectar within the caracalla bloom.

It must be wonderful to be in tune with Nature.

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