Post last updated: October 3rd, 2018
Other blogs with gardening as a topic, such as Seattle Trekker, are always setting my snarl in motion by featuring plants I can’t grow here in Florida under any circumstances but they can often grow our stuff if they are willing to fuss with it. It ain’t right, I tell you.
The Butterfly Vine, Yellow Orchid Vine or Gallinita is best suited for USDA Zones 8-10 where it remains evergreen in mild winters but is cold hardy to the mid-20s. It grows fast enough to be considered an annual in much colder climates. It can be grown in a container, on a pole or fence, trellised, or pruned as a flowing branched shrub, or as a groundcover.
Considered native to Mexico, it grows in Central America as far south as Brazil. It is well-suited to a western exposure because of its high heat tolerance. It is fairly drought tolerant but looks better with regular watering as long as you don’t over water. It is also thornless, disease free and unattractive to pests but butterflies like it.
From May to September, this vine produces clusters of one-inch wide yellow orchid-shaped flowers each having five petals. These are followed by clusters of papery, winged chartreuse seed pods resembling a butterfly. Allow these seed pods to dry on the plant. Once brown, use your thumbnails to pull the butterfly “body” apart and collect the seeds. Semi-softwood cuttings can be taken in late spring or early fall. These cuttings will be ready for transplant in less than three months.
One cannot have beauty without a little frustration, however, and the botanical side of this beautiful vine is a real mess. According to Wikipedia, “The correct name for the species often called Mascagnia macroptera in the horticulture trade is Callaeum macropterum; the names are not interchangeable. Most of the plants sold in the USA under the names Callaeum macropterum and Mascagnia macroptera are actually Callaeum septentrionale.” If you search for it under the common names, such as Butterfly Vine and Yellow Orchid Vine, you may run across another plant entirely, called the Butterfly Pea Vine, Clitoria ternate, which has blue and purple flowers. To add to the confusion, Mascagnia was previously classified as Stigmaphyllon ciliatum. One wonders about the jollies the botanists are enjoying as they mess with us.