The Coral Vine

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The coral vine (Antigonon leptopus) is a native species of Mexico. It is a vine that was cultivated in Florida as an ornamental landscape plan. It eventually escaped cultivation and grew profusely throughout the State. Leptopus vines which can reach 25’ feet and more cling to host plants by means of tendrils. The root system puts down underground tubers, which insure the continuance of the species. Its 2 ” to 4″ leaves are heart shaped and a dark green in color. The uniqueness of the plant is its flowers. Leptopus’ small pink and white flowers grow in large clusters (panicles) at the tips of the vines. Blooming time is in the summer and fall.

I first saw this specimen when driving past an overgrown lot alongside Pine Island Road. My first thought when seeing it was that was like looking at pink graffiti on a green wall. A rather attractive sight. The more I wander about in Florida’s natural habitats I am constantly reminded of the good, the bad and the ugly. To this point all the wildflowers that I have written about in this series are good. Leptopus, however, is bad and not just because it is a non-native. It is bad because of its voracious growth that eventually results in the smothering to death of whatever plant it climbs on. It is bad because it prolific seed production is easily spread over wide areas and it is bad because of its under ground tubers insure re-growth when it is cut back.

Leptopus is listed on Florida’s class 2 invasive plant list. The specimen in the photograph is in the process of smothering a Brazilian Pepper which itself is on Florida’s class 1 invasive plant list.