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Allamanda cathartica (golden trumpet vine)

The golden trumpet vine has clusters of particularly striking golden-yellow flowers, which contrast with the shiny dark green leaves to make a lush plant for the conservatory.

Detail of an illustration of Allamanda cathartica

Detail of an illustration of Allamanda cathartica

Species information

Scientific name: 

Allamanda cathartica L.

Common name: 

golden trumpet vine

Conservation status: 

Not evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria.

Habitat: 

Near coasts, climbing through trees or shrubs in mangrove swamps and along lowland streams.

Key Uses: 

Ornamental, medicinal.

Known hazards: 

All parts are poisonous if eaten; its sap causes skin and eye irritation.

Taxonomy

Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Asteranae
Order: 
Gentianales
Family: 
Apocynaceae
Genus: Allamanda

About this species

There are 15 species of Allamanda from South and Central America, named by Linnaeus in honour of the Swiss doctor and botanist, Dr Frédéric-Louis Allamand, who visited Guyana in the early 18th century. Allamandas have become popular in gardens throughout the tropics, where some species have become naturalised and even invasive. In temperate countries they are grown as greenhouse plants for their freely produced, brightly coloured flowers.

Synonym: 

There are a number of synonyms for this species. View the World Checklist for details.

Genus: 
Allamanda

Discover more

Geography and distribution

Allamanda cathartica is a native of tropical South America, from Peru and Colombia eastwards to French Guiana and Brazil. It has also been recorded in Central America as far north as Honduras. It is widely cultivated elsewhere in the tropics.

Description

This vigorous climbing plant has leathery evergreen leaves arranged in whorls of 4 at intervals along the stem and bright yellow flowers. The stems twine to 6 m or considerably more and contain milky sap.

The lance-shaped leaves are 6 cm long and 3 cm wide. Golden-yellow funnel-shaped flowers up to around 9 cm long and 6 cm in diameter are held in groups of 12 on short branches at the ends of shoots or in the leaf axils. The prickly seed pods contain winged seeds.

The form named ‘Hendersonii’ has larger flowers and is most commonly grown in Europe.

Hand-coloured engraving of Allamanda cathartica from Curtis's Botanical Magazine (1796)

Curtis's Botanical Magazine

Three species of Allamanda have been illustrated in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, under a variety of names. Allamanda cathartica appeared first in a hand-coloured engraving (artist unknown) in 1796 (see image, right). It was also illustrated in 1848 by W.H. Fitch as A. schottii, and as A. aubletii. In 1868 it was illustrated again by W. Fitch, under the name A. nobilis.

According to William Curtis (founder of The Botanical Magazine), Allamanda cathartica is a ‘beautiful stove plant […] introduced to this country [UK] in 1785, by Baron Hake’. Christian Ludwig von Hake (1745-1818) was a German minister and keen amateur botanist, after whom the genus Hakea was named by Heinrich Adolph Schrader, Director of the Old Botanical Garden of Göttingen University.

Curtis's Botanical Magazine (Editor: Martyn Rix) provides an international forum of particular interest to botanists and horticulturists, plant ecologists and those with a special interest in botanical illustration.

Now well over 200 years old, the magazine is the longest running botanical periodical featuring colour illustrations of plants. Each four-part volume contains 24 plant portraits reproduced from watercolour originals by leading international botanical artists. Detailed but accessible articles combine horticultural and botanical information, history, conservation and economic uses of the plants described.

Find out more about Curtis's Botanical Magazine

Threats and conservation

The species is widespread both in the wild and cultivation but has not been evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria.

Uses

Golden trumpet vine is widely cultivated as an ornamental. In some areas of the tropics it has escaped from cultivation and become a weed, most notably in the rain forests of northern Queensland.

Extracts of leaves, roots and flowers have been shown to have in vivo anti-tumour activity against leukaemia in mice, and against human carcinoma of the nasopharynx (nasal cavity and upper part of the throat) in culture. Leaf and root decoctions are used as a laxative and emetic in traditional medicine in a number of tropical countries, but large doses are toxic.

Cultivation

Golden trumpet vine needs plenty of direct sun to flower well and should be allowed to climb up a trellis or a similar support. Propagation is by stem-tip cuttings in spring.

This species at Kew

Golden trumpet vine can be found in the Palm House and in the Waterlily House.

Pressed and dried, and alcohol-preserved specimens of Allamanda cathartica are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world, by appointment. The details of some of these, including images, can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

Kew’s Economic Botany Collection includes samples of fruits, seeds and the wood of Allamanda cathartica.

New discoveries

A new species of Allamanda was described from north-eastern Brazil as recently as 2009 by Alessandro Rapini and Rita Fabiana de Souza-Silva. Rapini spent a year on a Kew fellowship working on the systematics and evolutionary relationships of New World Apocynaceae, in collaboration with Kew’s resident experts. He was subsequently able to demonstrate that the more evolutionarily derived groups of the family that diversified in Central and South America were the result of just four introductions from Africa over the last 20 million years.

References and credits

Akah P.A. & Offiah V.N. (1992). Gastrointestinal effects of Allamanda cathartica leaf extracts. Pharmaceutical Biology 30: 213-217.

Herklots, G. (1976). Flowering Tropical Climbers. Dawson Science History Publications, Folkestone.

Phillips, R. & Rix, M. (1997). Conservatory and Indoor Plants. Vol. 2. Pan Books, London.

Rapini, A., Chase, M.W., Goyder, D.J. & Griffiths, J. (2003). Asclepiadeae classification: evaluating the phylogenetic relationships of New World Asclepiadoideae (Apocynaceae). Taxon 52: 33–50.

Rapini, A., van den Berg, C. & Liede-Schumann, S. (2007). Diversification of the Asclepiadoideae (Apocynaceae) in the New World. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 94: 407-422.

Sakane, M. & Shepherd, G.J. (1986). Uma revisão do gênero Allamanda L. (Apocynaceae). Revista Brasileira de Botânica 9: 125-149.

Slamet Sutanti Budi Rahayu (2001). Allamanda L. In: Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 12(2). Medicinal and Poisonous Plants 2, eds J.L.C.H. Van Valkenburg & N. Bunyapraphatsara, pp. 49-52. Backhuys, Leiden, the Netherlands.

Souza-Silva, R. F. de & Rapini, A. (2009). Allamanda calcicola (Apocynaceae), an overlooked new species from limestone outcrops in the states of Minas Gerais and Bahia, Brazil. Kew Bulletin 64: 171-174.

World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2010). Allamanda cathartica. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Available online (accessed 8 August 2011).

Kew Science Editor: Martyn Rix and David Goyder
Kew contributors: Steve Davis (Sustainable Uses Group)
Copyediting: Malin Rivers

Although every effort has been taken to ensure that the information contained in these pages is reliable and complete, notes on hazards, edibility and suchlike included here are recorded information and do not constitute recommendations. No responsibility will be taken for readers’ own actions.

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