What is a Trumpet Creeper?

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  • Written By: J.M. Densing
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2019
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A trumpet creeper, scientific name Campsis radicans, is a tenacious climbing vine with brilliantly colored flowers that attract hummingbirds. Also known as a trumpet vine, it grows in many areas of North America where it is planted as an ornamental as well as being found in the wild. Trumpet creeper is very low maintenance once established, but it's considered a weed by many people due to its tendency to grow out of control and choke out other plants.

The branches of the trumpet creeper are woody, and the main stem can reach diameters of up to 7 inches (17.8 cm) across. In can grow to heights of 30 to 35 feet (9.1 to 10.7 m) with a structure to grow on, and it takes on a bush-like appearance without support. The compound leaves are composed of leaflets that grow in pairs on opposite sides of a central stem. The leaflets are dark green with an oval shape that comes to a point at the end with jagged edges. The vine is sometimes called "cow itch" because contact with the leaves can cause a rash in many creatures, including humans and cows.


The flowers of the trumpet creeper grow in large, showy clusters, with each blossom reaching a length of about 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10 cm). They have a long trumpet shape that flares out into five distinct petals at the end, with large prominent stamens emerging from the center. They are a brilliant shade of red, with a lighter reddish orange at the throat, and they are extremely attractive to hummingbirds. Once the flowers are spent, the vine produces large seed pods that dry out and split open, releasing numerous lightweight winged seeds.

Trumpet creeper is found in eastern North America, with a range from Ontario south to Florida and west to Texas and the Dakotas. In the wild, it tends to grow in the woods, at the edges of forests, on the banks of streams, and in fields. It is considered invasive due to its ability to spread rapidly and the tendency to take over an area, choking out other plant life. This tendency has earned it the nicknames "Hellvine" and "Devil's shoestring."

Many gardeners plant trumpet creeper for its ability to attract ruby throated hummingbirds and for the beautiful flowers. It can be easily trained to grow on trellises, fences, and other structures. It will bloom more in full sun than in shady locations and should be watered during periods without rain. Due to its aggressive growing tendencies, it needs to be monitored and kept pruned. If trumpet creeper spreads into areas where it is unwanted, it is extremely difficult to eradicate.


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