moderate water wise
Scrambler; Shrub medium
shade; semi-shade; sun
red, orange, yellow; spring summer
shade; semi-shade; sun; screen; pergola; wildlife insects
thicket; subtropical east coast; Highveld; bushveld savanna
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It is incredibly exciting to go out into the garden one day and notice that, after a three- to five-year wait, your Poison Rope is in full flower! Frustrated at its flowerless state after a two-year wait, I moved it into the sun. The plant took a while to recover before taking off like a rocket ship and providing a curtain of colour a year later; it was obviously this beautiful climber’s time to flower, but there is also a chance the sheer volume of flowers is due to its sunny aspect, for, though wild specimens occur in deep shade within evergreen forests and dense scrub, many of these species thrive if given some sun. The Poison Rope is both a scrambling shrub and twining creeper that sends out long, strong tendrils to wrap tightly around whatever is close at hand. In evergreen forests, this ability enables it to climb up tall trees to the sun, although it is not a particularly rampant or wide spreading climber. The leaves are beautiful, highly glossy and lance shaped, but it is the flowers that are the talking point. In America, the common name is Corkscrew flower, quite apt as they are slightly twisted. Single flowers are small, but they grow in clusters and are quite beautiful – spider-like with 5 long, thin and twisted lobes, changing to deep orange where they all meet at the base of the flower. Flowering begins in spring and continues for a few months. Tiny fruits, shaped like little ox-horns, ripen on the plant and split open to scatter the seed light enough for wind dispersal. Position the Poison Rope where it will get some support – a tree in your forest or woodland, or along a fence in the shadier parts of the garden. While my plant is thriving in full sun, do try it in the shade, for colourful plants are valuable in low light conditions. This climber provides a dense branch network and foliage for nesting birds. S. speciosus is found in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and Limpopo and Mpumalanga regions of the country, enjoying the warmer and wetter parts of South Africa.