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Thunbergia mysorensis (clock vine)

The clock vine can reach up to 10 metres in length with hanging stems of stunning yellow and reddish-brown flowers.

Thunbergia mysorensis in the Princess of Wales Conservatory

Thunbergia mysorensis in the Princess of Wales Conservatory

Species information

Scientific name: 

Thunbergia mysorensis (Wight) T.Anderson

Common name: 

clock vine, lady's slipper vine, dolls' shoes, brick and butter vine

Conservation status: 

Not evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria.

Habitat: 

On trees in tropical montane forests.

Key Uses: 

Ornamental.

Known hazards: 

None known.

Taxonomy

Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Asteranae
Order: 
Lamiales
Family: 
Acanthaceae
Genus: Thunbergia

About this species

Thunbergia mysorensis is a woody-stemmed, evergreen, climbing plant native to India. The genus name Thunbergia commemorates the Swedish physician and botanist, Carl Peter Thunberg (1743-1828), a protégé of Linnaeus. The species name 'mysorensis' refers to the city of Mysore in southern India. It is an attractive plant for winter and spring flowering in a conservatory or warm greenhouse.

Synonym: 

Hexacentris mysorensis Wight

Genus: 
Thunbergia

Discover more

Hand-coloured lithograph of Thunbergia mysorensis by W.H. Fitch (1854), taken from Curtis’s Botanical Magazine.

Geography and distribution

This species is native to southern India, from the Nilgiri Mountains (often referred to as the Nilgiri Hills) to Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin), at elevations reaching 900 m. It is commonly cultivated throughout India, and outdoors elsewhere in warm temperate and tropical areas.

Description

Overview: This is a vigorous, winter-flowering climber, with slender twining stems up to 10 m long.

Leaves: It has glossy, green leaves, each around 15 cm long.

Flowers: The yellow and reddish-brown flowers hang in long racemes (an unbranched, elongated stem with stalked flowers), which can measure up to 90 cm in length. Each flower measures about 5 cm and has a gaping yellow throat and reflexed (turned back) dark red lobes.

In the wild, it is pollinated by sunbirds.

Illustration from Curtis's Botanical Magazine

 

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.

Published for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.

Find out more about Curtis's Botanical Magazine

Thunbergia mysorensis (clock vine)


Uses

Thunbergia mysorensis is widely cultivated as an ornamental in the tropics, as well as in conservatories and greenhouses elsewhere. It has received an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Cultivation

As the clock vine comes from a tropical monsoon climate, it requires warm temperatures and ample water in summer, and a dry, cooler winter to flower freely.

This species at Kew

The clock vine can be seen in the Palm House and in the tropical section of the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

Pressed and dried, and alcohol-preserved specimens of Thunbergia mysorensis are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world, by appointment.

The details of some of these specimens, including images, can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

References and credits

Brummitt, R. K. & Powell, C. E. (1996). Authors of Plant Names. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

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

Noltie, H. J. (2007). The Life and Work of Robert Wight. Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.

Phillips, R. & Rix, M. (1991). Conservatory and Indoor Plants. Vol. 2. Pan Books, London.

The Plant List (2010). Thunbergia mysorensis. Available online (accessed 22 July 2011).

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

While every effort has been taken to ensure that the information contained in these pages is reliable and complete, the 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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