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Antigonon leptopus (Coral creeper, Koraalklimop) Family: Polygonaceae

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Weeds in our Area (Part One Hundred and Thirty Eight)

By Bob and Ena McIntyre – Garden Route Region.

Antigonon leptopus (Coral creeper, Koraalklimop) Family: Polygonaceae
Finding Antigonon leptopus on the new list was pretty rewarding. Leslie Henderson had recognised its invasive potential at the time of compiling Alien Weeds and Invasive Plants and included it at that time as one of 36 species that had not been classified as invasive in the region. Its invasive status then: Special effect weed - competitive and high visual impact. A closer look at the species helped to positively identify specimens of A. leptopus in our area.
There is absolutely no doubt that this is indeed a very eye-catching vine, which can be hard to resist when faced with a diamond mesh boundary fence. The older gardening books were also particularly taken with the species recommending it as a quick grower, evergreen in warmer regions and suitable throughout the country. In addition – the added bonus of being pest resistant with a spectacular long-lasting flowering season throughout summer and autumn. One can’t ask very much more from a climber. With all these attributes in its favour it clearly became very popular, ultimately leading to its complete tolerance of local conditions to the extent that it has now progressed to invasive status.

Description: The Coral vine is a perennial tendril-climbing vine with slender stems. The green leaves are heart- or spear-shaped with very distinct veins. The stunning pink flowers are borne in racemes that end in tendrils. A Polygonaceae relative very common in our area is Rumex sagittatus (climbing sorrel) with leaves a similar arrow-shape and very eye-catching green to pink sprays of seeds. Both plants have tuberous roots.
Invasive status: Antigonon leptopus invades coastal and inland bush and thicket. Luckily at this time we don’t appear to have a problem locally. However, bearing in mind that our area is home to a large variety of indigenous vines including some (e.g. Rumex sagittatus above) with very similar growth habits we are certainly at risk. Particularly, when one considers the incredible spread and persistence of another invader vine species - Anredera cordifolia (Bridal wreath) which is hugely problematic locally, vigilance in this instance is definitely in order. If you have any Coral creeper in your garden, please keep a close watch - seeds germinate readily. Pull out and destroy any seedlings and do not share them with anyone. Antigonon leptopus’ new list classification is 1b – controlled as part of an invasive species control programme.
Substitutes: Senecio macroglossus (Indigenous Ivy), Thunbergia alata (Black-eyed Susan), Jasminum multipartum (Wild Jasmine) and for something bold, stunningly beautiful and sweet-scented Clematis brachiata (Traveler’s Joy).
References: “ALIEN WEEDS AND INVASIVE PLANTS”: Lesley Henderson. Copyright © 2001 Agricultural Research Council. A-Z of Gardening in SA: W G Sheat

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