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Corkscrew Vine or Snail Vine: Oh, So Confusing. . . .

Talk with anyone who has an interest in this plant and the odds are good that you'll get confusing, conflicting or just plain erroneous information. Here's the straight story.

There are two similar looking plants called the Snail Vine and the Corkscrew Vine. Both produce pretty, spiral-form flowers in soft pastel shades. And the foliage of both is heart shaped, looking much like that of pole beans which makes sense because these are legumes and are therefore related to beans. In fact, both plants will produce slender, bean-like pods under good growing conditions.

The Snail Vine, Phaseolus caracalla, is fairly widely available. This is an aggressive, sometimes invasive plant that tends to root where the branches touch the ground and can be difficult to eradicate. The flowers of the Snail Vine lack the fragrance that represents a key reason gardeners choose to grow these plants. Snail vines are often erroneously sold as, and labeled as Vigna caracalla.

The true Corkscrew Vine, Vigna caracalla, is difficult to find and worth the effort. This vigorous and well mannered garden plant produces very cool spiral flowers with an incredible scent that's reminiscent of Chinese wisteria and noticeable from 15 feet away. The intricate, curly flowers are produced for several months during the summer. Originally from South America and grown by Thomas Jefferson at Montecello, these are memorable plants. If you've seen one in a private or public garden, locked on the amazing scent and fanciful flowers, and always wanted one of your own, now you can make that happen.

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