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Botanical Art Worldwide: America's Flora


Trumpet vine

Campsis radicans


Native to the eastern U.S., this tenacious vine thrives in hot sunlight and is at its prime late in the summer in upstate New York, where I live. It puts forth masses of dense green foliage and cymes of trumpet-shaped blooms in brilliant shades of fiery red—irresistible to hummingbirds and butterflies. I, too, found this lush plant, flourishing in our northern climes, hard to resist.

The genus derives its name from the Greek ‘kampsis’ meaning flexure, curve or bending, referring to the curved stamens of the flower; the Latin ‘radicans’ (rooting) refers to its aerial rootlets.

Mature woody stems appear dry and stiff, displaying peeling bark. The sturdy old growth puts out adventitious aerial rootlets which cling tightly to any available support---fence, tree or trellis, wall or concrete---regardless of invitation or welcome! Branching stems bear pairs of opposite pinnately compound leaves, consisting of leaflets with serrated edges and pointed tips. New shoots, smooth and pliable, elbow for space, reaching energetically towards the sun for warmth and light---twisting, turning and entwining, designing intricate arabesques along the way.

This abundant verdure is festooned with clusters of vermilion bell-shaped flowers, which appear throughout the summer in southern latitudes. Leathery in texture, each tubular calyx flares into a five-lobed corolla, its golden yellow inner surface streaked with crimson lines, which guide pollinators to the nectary.

The flower is eventually replaced by a sturdy green bean, tapered at both ends, which matures into an elongated seed capsule, turning dry and bronze with time. The pod has a fissure along which it splits open when ready, to release flat membranous winged seeds which in turn are dispersed by wind and air, perhaps to hospitable lodgings to propagate another generation and host future nectar-fests.---twisting, turning and entwining, designing intricate arabesques along the way.

My task, as I studied the profusion of leaves, stems, blooms and fruit, was to document the intricacies of each while retaining the plant's quintessential exuberance---its assertive embrace of all it encountered, its fierce determination to climb, to spread, to grow. It is for precisely these attributes that C. radicans is perceived as invasive in certain climes; but in the northeast our summers are brief, our growing season short and radiant blooms a visual treat we savor for a long, long time.

I must confess that during the hours I spent with my specimen I fell under its spell, bedazzled by its flamboyance and undeniable vitality. I was ready with paint and brush to record what I observed. There was change and movement during the ensuing weeks---buds opened, blooms withered, new stems bore leaves, seedpods developed and one obligingly split open to show what it was capable of. In its own way I sensed it was offering me a challenge and I accepted with delight!


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Read more about this artist’s work: 20th Annual

acharya Campsis

Campsis radicans

Trumpet vine

watercolor on paper

26 x 18

©2015 milly acharya

2024 ASBA - All rights reserved

All artwork copyrighted by the artist. Copying, saving, reposting, or republishing of artwork prohibited without express permission of the artist.

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