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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - February 06, 2008

From: Lincoln , NE
Region: Midwest
Topic: Wildlife Gardens
Title: Hybrid of Campsis radicans to attract hummingbirds
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hello :) I am not new to gardening...just new with new varieties of plants/flowers. I tried to do my "homework" first before contacting you...so I do appreciate your time. Anyhoo, I'm developing a Hummingbird habitat. Last year I planted a few perennials before the 1st frost. I'm starting to regret one...a Trumpet Creeper vine, 'Madame Galen'. From all I've read...50% of the nurseries say that this particular Trumpet Creeper will NOT attract Hummers because it doesn't produce nectar! I would like to know if I bought a "dud" ...so to speak. I'd like to know whether to get rid of it and get another type before Spring...

ANSWER:

The problem is that 'Madame Galen' is a cultivar. That means the nursery professionals have taken the Campsis radicans (trumpet creeper) and done whatever was necessary to justify making it a named cultivar. For instance, they might have been trying to make it less invasive; which the trumpet creeper definitely is. If, in the process of hybridizing the plant, they destroyed or made random the ability of the plant to produce nectar, then what you have been hearing could be true. After some searching around, we found this Floridata site which confirmed what we had seen mention of in other sites. The cultivar that you have is a hybrid between Campsis radicans and Campsis grandiflora chinese, producing the hybrid Campsis x Tagliabuana 'Madame Galen'. At this point, the plant ceases to be a true native plant and becomes a hybrid between a native of North America and a non-native.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is focused on the care and propagation of plants native to North America. We don't like hybrids for the very reason cited above: hybridization may change, perhaps for the worse, the very qualities for which the original, native plant was valued. We did not find any verification that some of this hybrid does not attract hummingbirds. Since the hummingbird and long-tongued bees are the pollinators of Campsis radicans, we find it hard to believe that would happen, but, again, who knows what hybridization has done?

If you lived just a little farther south, we would suggest replacing your vine with Bignonia capreolata (crossvine), which is very popular in the south, but does not show up as growing naturally in Nebraska. There is no doubt they attract hummingbirds, and are not as aggressive as the native trumpet creeper. Since you have not had the vine very long, and are already questioning the wisdom of leaving it in your garden, perhaps you could consider going back to the native Campsis radicans, which should be available in nurseries in your area, as it grows naturally in Nebraska. They DO attract hummingbirds, and have beautiful blooms. We would suggest that, with any of these vines, you also should be aggressive, trimming them back pretty heavily in the late winter, both for shape and control. Pull up suckers coming up where you don't want the vine, and keep doing it.


Campsis radicans

Bignonia capreolata

 

 

 

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