Tecomaria capensis, the Cape Honeysuckle, is one of our most colourful shrubs and is a magnet for Sunbirds.

This beautiful, free-flowering, evergreen shrub is fast growing, drought resistant and easy to grow. Tecomaria capensis normally has bright orange-red trumpet shaped flowers, but colour forms from yellow through orange to deep red are commonly available. It is an excellent plant for a wildlife friendly garden, attracting bees, butterflies, moths and nectar feeding birds, especially sunbirds, their main pollinators.

Family:               BIGNONIACEAE        (Sausage-tree family)

Name Derivation:

  • Tecomaria – “tecoma”, a closely related genus and “aria” denoting this relationship.
  • capensis – from the Cape of Good Hope.

Common Names:

  • Cape-honeysuckle (Eng), Kaapse kanferfoelie (Afr), morapa-šitšane (Nso), xunguxungu (Tso), mpashile (Ven), and umunyane (Zul).

SAF Number:                  673.1

Form:                               A multi-stemmed, scrambler or shrub.

Size:                                   2 – 4 m (–17 m) by 3 – 5 m.

Flowers:

  • Narrow tubular flowers, widening to a 5 lobed, 2 lipped mouth.
  • Flowers in dense, terminal clusters.
  • Very showy when in full flower.
  • Flowers produce copious amounts of nectar.

Colour Orange-red, but also yellow, salmon, peach, apricot and red.

Flowering Months:     All year with peaks in Sep-Oct and Mar-May.

Fragrance:                     Not fragrant.

The brightly coloured flowers of Tecomaria capensis, the Cape Honeysuckle, are narrowly tubular, widening to a 5-lobed, 2-lipped mouth.
This is the original, natural orange colour of Tecomaria capensis flowers, still very showy.
Foliage:

  • Evergreen.
  • Leaves are compound, usually about seven leaflets and dark glossy green.
  • The rachis (the stalk to which the leaflets are attached) and the petiole (leaf stalk) are slightly winged (flattened).
  • The leaflets are variable in shape, elliptic to almost round, with scalloped margins.

Thorns:                                  No thorns.

Fruit:

  • Long and narrow (13 * 1 cm), flattened pod-like capsule, green to brown.
  • The capsule split lengthwise when ripe, releasing the papery winged seeds.

Bark:

  • Pale brown.
  • Young stems have many lenticels.

In the Garden:

 

  • Tecomaria capensis can be used to great effect in almost any garden or landscape.
  • Planted en-masse on large embankments it can make a spectacular show.
  • Tecomaria may be used to make a stunning hedge.
  • Inter-plant with other shrubs like Plumbago auriculata, Bauhinia galpinii, Freylinia tropica and Leonotis leonurus for a spectacular colourful effect.
  • Use as a screen to hide walls and fences, or as a feature plant on its own.
  • There are many colour forms to choose from, from pale yellow to deep red.
  • It can be used along boundary walls or amongst other plants in a shrubbery.
  • The yellow form, known as Tecomaria capensis “Lutea” is a more compact shrub and more cold hardy than other varieties.
  • A good choice for coastal gardens as it is wind resistant.
  • A wildlife friendly plant, attracting insects and birds.
  • Quick growing.         
Tecomaria capensis ‘Apricot’ is a very attractive colour form.
Red and yellow flowering forms of Tecomaria capensis used in combination in a mass planting outside a shopping complex in North Riding.
This is the colour form known as ‘Peach’.
Tecomaria capensis grown as shrubs on the edge of the main road in Weenen, KZN. In full flower at the end of April.
Soil Needs:                         Any well composted soil.

Care:

  • A low maintenance plant.
  • Feed with organic fertilizer and mulch with compost.
  • Prune after winter to shape and stimulate flowering.
  • Protect young plants against the cold in winter.

Cold Hardiness:

  •  Semi-hardy, but frosted plants normally recover quickly.
  • Protect young plants.
Water Requirements:

  • Drought hardy, but thrives on regular water in summer.
  • Water-wise

Light Requirements:        More sun than shade.

Roots:                                  The roots are not aggressive.

Birds:

  • Insect-eating birds are attracted to the insects that visit these plants.
  • Nectar feeders and sunbirds feed on the rich nectar in the flowers.

Insects and Butterflies:

 

  • Honey bees, adult butterflies and other insects feed from the flowers.
  • Tecomaria capensis is the larval host to Barker’s Smokey Blue and the Common Blue.
  • Adult butterflies feed on nectar from the flowers.
  • It is also larval host to 10 moth species.
Sunbirds, including Greater Double-collard Sunbirds, are attracted to Tecomaria capensis flowers. Sunbirds are the most important pollinator of these plants.
Tecomaria capensis will use other trees and shrubs for support, and when they flower, may create the impression their host is flowering!
Medicinal:

  • Used to treat many conditions, fever, insomnia, bleeding gums, dysentery, pain and chest ailments.
  • Also used to stimulate milk flow in feeding Mothers.

Poisonous:                       Not poisonous.

Notes of interest:

 

  • Some American botanists a few years ago decided that Tecomaria should be included in the genus Tecoma. This has been shown to be incorrect and the genus Tecomaria, was re-instated, but some nurseries and books published at the time have the incorrect name.
  • A bright red variety called ‘Rocky Horror’ is sometimes available.
  • Some antelope do browse the leaves.
  • Grown as an ornamental shrub in many other parts of the world, it is an unwanted invasive alien in some places, including the West Indies and New Zealand.
Natural Distribution:

  • Found in the WC, EC KZN, Swa, Moz, M and L.
  • The subspecies Tecomaria capensis subsp. capensis is endemic to southern Africa.

Natural Habitat:

 

  • Fynbos, thicket, savanna-lowveld and savanna-bushveld.
  • In margins of evergreen forests, in bush and scrub in coastal areas and along streams.
  • From sea level to 1 200m.
A beautiful landscaping combination using the yellow flowered Tecomaria capensis ‘Lutea’ and the indigenous purple flowered Lantana rugosa. Photograph taken by Andrea Hepplewhite.
© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2012 & 2018.