Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Madeira Vine in Full Flower

Two weeks after my September 22 posting, the countless buds at the top of the twenty-foot tripod of Madeira vine have matured to white flowers. If only my jet-pack were working, I'd float up to enjoy their fragrance. 




The vine is a terror in the tropics, where its reproductive prowess is a cruel exaggeration of fecundity. There, my one-season's-worth of growth to twenty feet would have been accomplished before Spring break, not September. Even so, there are probably a thousand flowers crowning my tall tripod. Imagine the out-of-control growth of this vine when growing in frost-free habitat. A free-range infestation of this vine could have tens of thousands of blooms, the goal of each of which is to mature to seeds.




Even worse than the seeds are the bulbils that form in the leaf axils. The growing season isn't long enough this far North to enable their formation and, at any rate, they aren't hardy if any should fall to the ground. In the tropics, they mature on the vine, month after month, ramifying into heavy clusters as big as grapefruits. Not only can the vine's innumerable stems and thick foliage shade out the canopy of a host tree, the overall weight of the clusters can break even large limbs. Countless dislodged bulbils then crash to the ground, to take root and send up more twining stems.


Where it is hardy, Anredera cordifolia is a nightmare. Where it is not, it's an aggressive but harmless oddity. Mine survives year to year only because the vine has tuberous roots, and I overwinter the containered colony—dormant, with its twenty-foot stems severed—under one of the greenhouse benches.


Here's how to grow Madeira vine. Here's how Madeira vine looks in bud.

FacebookTwitterRSS Feed

Stay in touch!


Sign up for twice-monthly eNews, plus notification of new posts:


* indicates required