Common name: Poison Rope
Distribution: Native to South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.
Growth Habit: Poison Rope grows as a shrubby vine or liana. Heights can reach 30 feet or more if given a suitable support tree, more commonly to 10 or 15 feet. Leathery leaves grow in whorls of three. Greenish stems are covered with white dots and can be propagated by cuttings. Flowers appear in clusters at branch terminals.
Cultural Requirements: Plant in well-draining soil in full sun, with plenty of room to accommodate the vigorous growth of Strophanthus. Poison Rope tolerates poor soils but does not appreciate soggy roots. Moderate water is required, and plants may drop leaves in response to drought. Tolerates light frost. Pruning will encourage branching which results in more flowers. We do occasionally find volunteer seedlings due to the wind dispersed seeds, but they’re not prevalent and are easily removed.
Features/Uses: Speciosus means brilliant or showy, which is a reference to the flowers. Spider-like creamy orange flowers featuring red accents blaze at the terminals of each branch. These flowers add drama to a season rich with gray days. Poison Rope can be left to grow as a dense mass of vines, or trained along a fence line or as a screen. This plant makes an outstanding specimen shrub for large gardens.
Bloom Time: Spring
Where at SDBG: African Bank near the top of the stairs
Photos: Rachel Cobb