Campsis radicans (L.) Seem.

Trumper Creeper

Campsis radicans plant2

Family - Bignoniaceae

Habit - Perennial liana, unarmed and lacking tendrils, creeping or climbing, with aerial rootlets along the stems.

Stems - Climbing or clambering, to 20 m, multiple from base. New growth glabrous, green Older stems woody with yellowish brown bark often peeling in thin strips.

Campsis radicans stemNew season's growth.

Leaves - Opposite, petiolate, odd-pinnate, with 7-11 leaflets. Rachis glabrous or hairy, with a narrow adaxial groove, green. Leaflets opposite, lanceolate to ovate, acuminate, coarsely toothed, glabrous above, sparsely pubescent on veins below, 2-8 cm long, 4 cm broad. Leaflet stalk short, winged.

Campsis radicans leafLeaf.

Campsis radicans leaf2aLeaf abaxial.

Campsis radicans leaf2Leaflet abaxial.

Inflorescence - Terminal panicles of up to 10 flowers. Pedicels to 1.7 cm long, subtended by small linear bracts. Pedicel also often with two small scalelike bracts near middle.

Campsis radicans inflorescenceInflorescence.

Flowers - Calyces 15-22 mm long, 5-lobed, glabrous (but with scattered inconspicuous glands toward the base of the lobes), reddish green or orange, the lobes triangular, shorter than the tube. Corollas 6-9 cm long, funnelform, somewhat zygomorphic, glabrous, thickened, somewhat waxy-textured, red to reddish orange, yellowish orange toward the base, 5-lobed, only slightly 2-lipped, the tube narrowly bell-shaped to nearly cylindrical, the lobes much shorter than the tube, somewhat overlapping, the upper 2 lobes slightly smaller than the others, the margins entire or slightly irregular. Stamens 4, included, fused to base of corolla tube. Staminodes absent. Filaments to 3 cm long, glabrous, pale yellow. Anthers tan, 5-6 mm long. Style 1, 4.8 cm long, glabrous, yellow-green. Stigma flattened, spatulate, to 3 mm broad. Ovary superior, 8 mm long, subterete to weakly 6-angled. Placentation axile. Ovules many, glabrous. Capsules 2-valved, to +15cm long, beaked, woody. Seeds winged.

Campsis radicans calyxCalyx.

Campsis radicans flowersFlowers.

Campsis radicans flowers2

Campsis radicans pistilLongitudinal section.

Campsis radicans ovaryOvary, style & stamen bases.

Fruits - Linear-elongate capsules, 10-28 cm long, 2-valved, slightly flattened, elliptic in cross-section with noticeable ridges along the sutures between the valves, the valves glabrous, with a leathery texture, tan to brown at maturity. Seeds with the body 6-9 mm long, flattened, the body elliptic in outline, 2-lobed, brown, with a wing at each end, the wings papery, light tan, with irregular margins.

Campsis radicans fruitsFruits.

Campsis radicans calyxSeeds.

Flowering - May - August.

Habitat - Open woods, thickets, fence rows, roadsides, railroads, disturbed sites. Also cultivated.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Lookalikes - Distantly, Bignonia capreolata.

Other info. - This striking species is common throughout Missouri. Its U.S. distribution is mainly within the eastern half of the country, and also ranges into Canada. The plant is easily identified by its large, trumpet-shaped flowers which are entirely red. The leaves are also quite distinctive.

Campsis radicans is well adapted to disturbed areas and can frequently be seen growing along fence rows and on utility poles. Under favorable conditions it will grow robustly, and can also be somewhat aggressive. If the vine is cultivated as an ornamental, sturdy support should be provided, since the vegetative mass may collapse weaker structures. The flowers attract hummingbirds, and are pollinated by them as well as by bumblebees and honeybees. Anyone not favoring ants indoors should leave the flowers outside, since numerous nectaries present on the flowers, fruits, and petioles attract ants in profuse numbers. Exposure to the foliage can cause skin irritation in some people.

Photographs taken off Hwy W, Ripley County, MO., 6-5-04 (DETenaglia); also at various points along the Katy Trail, 6-25-2010, 9-15-2011, and 6-13-2017, near Labadie, Franklin County, MO, 6-16-2016, and in Washington, Franklin County, MO, 5-25-2012 (SRTurner).


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