Indigenous Spring and Summer flowering Creepers (1)

Contributor: Esther

Dipogon lignosus

DY-poh-gon  lig-NO-sus

Family: Fabacea

Common names: Cape sweet pea, Mile-a-minute, Bosklimop, Wilde-ertjie.

Photo: roncorylus
Photo: roncorylus

Looking for a fast growing creeper to cover  walls or unsightly  retaining walls? Look no further: the Cape Sweet Pea is a quick solution to covering boundary walls or to drape Sholin retaining walls in a cloth of beautiful purple flowers from early spring to January.  The pea-shaped flowers, smaller to the familiar Sweet pea, are arranged in elongated in clusters (up to 25 cm long) that emanate from the leaf. The pink, purple or white flowers are borne on a narrow stalk, they are faintly fragrant and last quite well in a vase. The dark green leaves are composed of three diamond-shaped leaflets, with a light underside.  It seeds vigorously  and it grows   fast;  in a short time this species can smother other vegetation as it climbs over shrubs and trees weighing them down and eventually causing them to break. D. lignosus will also spread horizontally over the ground, making it an ideal ground cover for exposed banks. It is also planted as a natural soil enricher, as most legumes provide nitrogen fixing bacteria in their root nodules.

Although it is a perennial herb it will survive more than one growing season, but it is best to replace plants when they become woody.

D. lignosus grows naturally throughout the Western and Eastern Cape, usually along forest margins and stream banks, scrambling over other shrubs and trees.  You can see them growing along the Lagoon road  near The St. James at the Point and also on the fence bordering the Knysna Hollow, Welbedacht Road.

The flowers are pollinated by bees, and the seeds produced  can be dormant for several years. Dispersal is often by birds, but seedpods naturally crack open  to disperse the seed.

This lovely indigenous creeper is a proclaimed invader in Australia and parts of the USA.

Dipogon lignosus photo: Esther
Dipogon lignosus
photo: Esther

Derivation of name: Dipogon is from Greek di, meaning two, pogon meaning beard, referring to the style which is thickly bearded on the upper side near the tip, lignosus means woody, referring to the woodiness of the stems at the base of the plant.