Family: Bignonia Family (Bignoniaceae)
Origin and Distribution: Trumpetcreeper is a native of the southern U.S. that once was valued for its climbing habit and large flowers but, having escaped cultivation, is now considered a widely-distributed, rampant weed. Its naturalized range includes most of the eastern U.S. The plant is native to and common in southern Ohio and naturalized in scattered locations in the northern part of the state. Trumpetcreeper inhabits low moist areas, dry woods, thickets, old fields, and roadsides where it frequently is found climbing over trees, fences, and poles.
Plant Description: Trumpetcreeper is a deciduous perennial vine. In winter, plants can be recognized by straw-colored branches and aerial roots formed in bands below the leaf nodes on woody stems. Aerial roots are the only means of support for this climbing vine. Without additional support, vines grow about 10 feet long; if support is provided, vines can grow 40 feet long. The bell-shaped, bright-orange flowers are located in clusters at the ends of branches. Mature fruits, which are filled with winged seeds, are pods about the same size and shape of a small cigar. Trumpetcreeper reproduces by seeds, running roots, and stems that produce adventitious roots.
- Root system - The vine produces vigorous running roots and aerial roots are formed in 2 rows below nodes on the stem.
- Stems - Stems are woody and smooth. Aerial rootlets form below nodes on the stem. Vines grow up to 10 feet long in disturbed sites and 40 feet if supported and left undisturbed.
- Leaves - Leaves are opposite (2 leaves per node), 8 to 15 inches long, and compound with 7 to 11 leaflets. Leaflets are egg-shaped and have pointed tips and coarsely toothed edges.
- Flowers - Flowers are orange and trumpet-shaped with a united base and bell having 5-lobes. Flowers are 2 to 3 inches long, 2 inches wide, and located in clusters at the ends of branches.
- Fruits & Seeds - Fruits are capsules that are 4 to 8 inches long, shaped like a small cigar, and filled with rows of winged seeds.
Similar Species: Leaves of many sumac species (Sumac spp.) appear similar to those of trumpetcreeper, but sumac stems are erect and upright while trumpetcreeper has viney stems that climb or trail.
Biology: Flowers form from June to September. Flowers attract hummingbirds, which are their primary pollinators. Leaves turn yellowish before dropping off in autumn. Woody vines persist throughout winter. In the south, the plant can be undesirably aggressive. To control, roots should be dug and foliage cut and burned before seeds mature.
Toxicity: Eating leaves or flowers may result in minor skin irritation with redness and swelling.
Facts and Folklore:
- The success of trumpetcreeper in urban areas is partly due to its ability to establish in such inhospitable places as between cracks in the sidewalks.