If you like bold colors, you’ll probably love the cascading blooms of Pyrostegia venusta, commonly known as flame vine or flaming trumpet.
Pyrostegia venusta is one of those you-can’t-help-but-notice-me vines. The bright orange tubular blooms of this vigorous climber jump out of the landscape like a flash fire, blazing a colorful streak across the dull winter landscape.
Many flame vines have been catching my eyes over the past few months while driving around Central Florida. Occasionally I’ve passed “well behaved” vines that cover a fence or tumble over a trellis in an attractive, neat fashion. More often than not, however, the vine’s height-hungry tendrils have reached up and out of control.
Native to southern Brazil, northern Argentina and Paraguay, flame vine was first spotted in North America in the mid-1800s and quickly made its way across the southern, warm-weather states. Other vines may be satisfied with creeping along the ground, but not this one. It insists upon upward mobility. Once established, a single vine can grow to be 80-feet-tall and can cover entire tree canopies, smothering the trees that lend it support.
Although not listed as an invasive plant species by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, the rampant growth pattern of this vine makes it unsuitable for many landscapes, including mine. As much as I admire its beauty, I’ve also noted its aggressive behavior. I don’t want to add yet another difficult-to-control plant to my own landscape. However, that doesn’t keep me from appreciating it elsewhere.
I still remember the first time I noticed this flower. It was many years ago when I was new to the area and exploring some of the older downtowns. I was driving along Main Avenue in Minneola en route to downtown Clermont when, on my left, I passed by an older two-story wooden building housing the Just My Style Hair Salon & Spa. In front of the structure was a white arbor and low fence completely engulfed by what I later learned was flame vine. What a sight! The plant’s orange blooms were — and continue to this day to be — absolutely stunning.
While people like me admire these climbing beauties from afar, hummingbirds take a more hands-on — perhaps I should say, “heads-on” — approach. The nectar-producing flame vine flowers, which also attract bees, are just the right shape to accommodate a hummingbird’s long bill. The vine also draws songbirds but for a different reason. The dense, tightly woven vines provide well-hidden places to build nests and raise young.
Flame vines have not finished blooming. They should continue producing prolific amounts of tangerine-colored flowers throughout March and early April. So the next time you’re driving down the road and pass a flash of color spread across the treetops or notice a fence line covered in a flush of radiant blossoms, you’ll know you are passing one of nature’s boldest bloomers. Flame vine may not burn like a fire but its beauty will be emblazed on your memory for years to come.