Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Plant Profile: Hardenbergia violacea (Purple Vine Lilac)

Latin name: Hardenbergia violacea ("har-den-BERG-ee-ah vy-oh-LAY-sha")
Common name: Purple Vine Lilac or Purple Coral Pea Vine
Originally from: Australia
Blooms: Masses of small purple pea-flowers cover the plant in late winter.
Light: Full sun.
Water: Winter rain is enough.
Height x width: Vining to 12-16'
Zones: 10a -11
Where to find in P. Garden: Far in the back, by the compost bins, covering the fence.

Back in 2009 we were looking for very tough, drought tolerant and evergreen vines that would cover ugly things like fences at the garden. This one fits the bill! I don't think I bought this plant though - someone donated it. And it was pretty scraggly... it limped along for a while in a very tough spot getting no water because I thought it was doomed and the hose didn't reach all the way there... 

Well, somewhere along the way it found its feet and sprang into life, covering the chain link fence it was suppose to cover (and which the Bougainvilleas planted at the same time failed to help with - in fact they died, which tells you how tough the Hardenbergia is)

This evergreen vine has really pretty purple flowers with a chartreuse spot in center covering the plant from winter to early spring. It enjoys sun or light shade in hot inland areas, and tolerates (and even prefers) heavy soil so long as it drains well. 

Happily for us it requires little water once established, and if we could be bothered it would respond well to pruning - hard pruning can reinvigorate older plants. 

The species is widespread through much of Australia and can be found in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Tasmania where it grows from the coast to up into the mountains. 

Having a long, carrot-like root, it was reportedly used as a substitute for sarsparilla by Australian aboriginal bushmen. As a result, it also has the common names Australian Sarsparilla and False Sarsaparilla. The Australian aboriginal name for it is Waraburra.  

Dutch botanist George Voorhelm Schneevoogt first described the plant in 1793 in Icones Plantarum Rariorum based off cultivated plants that were thought to be from seeds collected in the Sydney area. Originally in the genus Glycine (the genus of the related soy bean Glycine max) this plant was later combined with Hardenbergia, a name Bentham used in 1837 when describing Hardenbergia ovata

The name for the genus honors Franziska Countess von Hardenberg, sister of the Baron Karl von Hugel, a 19th century Austrian patron of botany who collected plants while on an expedition to Australia in 1833. I can't find a photo of Frenziska, but I did find a pic of George Voorhelm Schneevoogt looking smug.

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