Now that red buckeye’s flowering season is beginning to fade, another hummingbird favorite is starting to appear: crossvine (Bignonia capreolata), a native semi-evergreen, woody vine. It’s a climber generally found growing up a supportive tree.
Like most plants that use hummingbirds as pollinators, crossvine has tubular flowers that range from red to orange to tangerine in color. Also known as quartervine, the plant gets its name from its cross-shaped pith. If you cut a stem, you’ll discover it has four chambers that form an “x” pattern.
Crossvine flowers are also noted for their curious fragrance, most often described as “mocha-like" which I imagine might serve to attract cappuccino-loving insects with extra long tongues. (Hummingbirds are lured by color not scent.)
Look for crossvine growing high in the trees or there is a low-growing vine on the east entrance to the Universal Trail near the Visitor Center.
Make sure you take a sniff.
- Text and photo by Stephen Lyn Bales