Allegheny Vine

– Posted in: Native/Invasive, Plant info, What's up/blooming

I mentioned that Allegheny vine (Adlumia fungosa) was blooming for me in July’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day post, and Leslie asked me what that was. Thank you, Leslie. I was dying for someone to ask.

A Biennial, Native Vine

I had never even heard of a biennial vine until Allegheny vine showed up in my garden. What does biennial mean? It means it takes two years to get to the blooming stage, and then it dies.

The first year it forms a mound of ferny foliage -- September 16, 2008

The first year it forms a mound of ferny foliage -- September 16, 2008

The first year I saw this rosette, I mistook it for a seedling of tall meadow rue (Thalictrum pubescens), which has been happily growing on the north side of the house since before we moved in.

However, in its second year, the “mound” or rosette starts to climb.

In June 2009 the vine has started to climb the nearby mockorange shrub.

In June 2009 the vine has started to climb the nearby mockorange shrub.

There is no mistaking it for tall meadow rue now.
By July 8, 2009, the vine has really hit its stride and is blooming like mad.

By July 8, 2009, the vine has really hit its stride and is blooming like mad.

By July delicate pink flowers dangle in clusters as the vine continues to climb.
You can see the resemblance to bleeding heart.

You can see the resemblance to bleeding heart.

As you might suspect from the appearance of the flowers, Allegheny vine is related to bleeding hearts (Dicentra spp.) and corydalis, among others. (Some say they have their own family, Fumariaceae, but others say they are merely a section of the poppy family.)

A Native Plant with Mysterious Origins

You may have noticed I said this plant showed up in my garden. I never planted it, and its first appearance in my nascent flower bed started quite the detective hunt, back in the pre-internet days. It is native throughout northeastern North America, but I have never seen it growing in any of the wild areas hereabouts. So where did it come from? It is sad to think it may once have grown wild here, and has now been extirpated from the local ecosystem. It is intriguing to think that one of the former owners of our house traded seed by mail or swapped plants with another gardener, and introduced this lovely, emphemeral plant to the garden I now tend.

How to Grow Adlumia fungosa

I’ll be honest with you. I don’t know how to grow Allegheny vine, which is also called climbing fumitory and–my favorite–mountain fringe. I have saved seeds and tried to sow them, without a single one germinating. It is one of those plants that I can’t grow, but if I wait patiently, it shows up on its own. It doesn’t show up every year, mind you, and rarely shows up twice in the same spot, though it always chooses a fairly moist spot. This particular plant, blooming in 2009, is probably the most spectacular vine I’ve been privileged to watch grow. If you’ve managed to grow it from seed, I’d appreciate any tips you could pass along.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Patty Stimmel March 8, 2011, 3:59 pm

Hi Kathy, I was wondering if it would be possible to use a picture of your Adlumia in an article I’m writing for our internal newsletter; Tag Along

We’re a botanic garden in northwest Indiana, I’m germinating Adlumia in our greenhouse to go out in our Native Plant Garden and wrote a bit about it in an article. But, since it’s about 1/4″ tall at the moment, I don’t have a picture to accompany my article. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d be very appreciative. And if you do mind, I’ll understand. Thanks.

Kathy Purdy March 8, 2011, 4:21 pm

Thank you for asking and not just stealing, Patty. When they accompany a story, I sell my photos to magazines and other publications. But for cash-strapped nonprofit organizations, I am willing to negotiate reasonable terms. I just sent you an email with what I consider to be fair terms.

Chen August 14, 2009, 11:05 am

I sowed some Adlumia fungosa seeds few years ago attempting to get a vine to cover a shady corner of the fence. The seeds germinated easily and I spread the seedlings in many parts of the garden, and they bloomed nicely the second year, but in my haste to clean up I pulled out all after that year. Bought the seed from Garden North ( She used to have an interesting desciption on its culture. One of the things she pointed out is, in order to have blooms everyyear rather than alternate year, to sow the seeds in two successive years to start the cycle.

Alice Joyce August 6, 2009, 11:37 am

I have successfully scanned my Adlumia fungosa article, and believe I can send you a copy as a jpeg – 2 jpeg pages. Or I might post it on BayAreaTendrils & link to your site?
Shall I email it to you? Is there an email address on your site that I missed? Cheers, Alice
.-= Alice Joyce´s last blog ..Plantsman Extraordinaire – Sean Hogan & Cistus Nursery =-.

Helen at Toronto Gardens August 4, 2009, 11:55 pm

What a miraculous gift! I wonder if it would grow here?
.-= Helen at Toronto Gardens´s last blog ..Who knows what lily beetles lurk… =-.

Kathy Purdy August 5, 2009, 8:19 am

Well, you are in its native range. Do you have a moist spot?

Craig @ Ellis Hollow August 4, 2009, 9:08 pm

I grew it once from seed from the NARGS exchange. Worked out well, but I couldn’t get it to reseed. I love bienniels and many thrive what with my weedy ways. I’m not sure what kept this one from seeding around.
.-= Craig @ Ellis Hollow´s last blog ..Verbascums bloom twice =-.

Alice Joyce August 4, 2009, 12:36 pm

Kathy, I’ll look into whether CGM has any kind of archive online. It’s been more than ten years since it appeared.
Perhaps I could scan the pages, & post or email it? I wish you were HERE – you’re much more tech-savvy than I!
btw, All my images are 35mm slides that need to be converted to digital.
An unhappy note: we’ve been thinking of moving, and I’ve been doing my best to clear out files. Recently, I threw away most of the background materials I had collected. I was of two minds in doing so, but felt compelled to clear things out. I had copies sent by horticultural librarians – pages of info from old books.
In my own library I have lovely old illustrated volumes from The Nature Library – Wild Flowers, & Garden Flowers, which lists Adlumia fungosa.
Other wild plants I totally obsessed about, grew and wrote on include Clematis virginiana; greater celandine – Chelidonium majus, and lesser celandine or celandine poppy – Stylophorum diphyllum.
But… don’t get me started! Alice
aka Bay Area Tendrils Garden Travel
.-= Alice Joyce´s last blog ..Living Carpet of Texture & Color: Eco-Roof, Portland Central Library =-.

Lynn August 4, 2009, 7:44 am

VERY interesting, Kathy! Lucky you 🙂 Cool that you were able to ID it for us. I’ve never seen anything like that growing wild, but I will keep an eye out in the boggy spots. BTW the Thalictrum you gave me is SO tall and pretty–one success amid too many failures this summer. I love the flowers and hope it seeds around. Thank you again!
.-= Lynn´s last blog ..beets beets beets! =-.

Sylvana August 4, 2009, 12:42 am

Very elegant. It looks like my fern-leaf bleeding heart, except the climbing, of course. Does it have tendrils?

Annie in Austin August 4, 2009, 12:31 am

So this Adlumia appears and looks like a meadowrue, then starts to climb and pops out Dicentra/Bleeding Heart flowers? Quite a lot of action from such a sweet little leaf, Kathy! Google pulled up a couple of sites that said this plant wants moist, rich shade, and that doesn’t sound either like Texas or the Midwest that I lived in so I’m glad to have seen it on your blog.

May this cool plant keep popping up for you every year!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose
.-= Annie in Austin´s last blog ..The Lilies of August =-.

Carol, May Dreams Gardens August 3, 2009, 11:22 pm

What an interesting vine. Curious how it just showed up for you, but you can’t really “grow it” in the sense of tending it the way we think of our garden plants. What a happy “random act of the garden” for you!
.-= Carol, May Dreams Gardens´s last blog ..Ritual Of The First Tomato – Revisited =-.

Cindy, MCOK August 3, 2009, 11:17 pm

That’s really unusual and very pretty. I’m glad it made an appearance for you!
.-= Cindy, MCOK´s last blog ..Through the Garden Gate: Monday, August 3rd =-.

Dee/ August 3, 2009, 10:01 pm

It’s just so pretty Kathy, and I’ve never seen it, but I’ll look for it now that I know what it is. Thanks.~~Dee
.-= Dee/´s last blog ..Dear Friends and Gardeners Week 22 =-.

Alice Joyce August 3, 2009, 9:56 pm

Kathy, Kathy, Kathy!
This is one of my all-time favorite, i.e. most beloved plants.
It grew in my Chicago garden and I become obsessed with its beauty and history. I did extensive research, photographed its growing habit and bloom endlessly, and wrote about it in an article for Chicagoland Gardening magazine. I miss it dearly!
Truly delighted to see this post, Cheers, Alice
aka BayAreaTendrils
.-= Alice Joyce´s last blog ..Living Carpet of Texture & Color: Eco-Roof, Portland Central Library =-.

Kathy Purdy August 3, 2009, 10:28 pm

Oh, Alice, I would love to read that article! Is it online, or can you send me a copy?

Leslie August 4, 2009, 7:52 am

Happy that I provided the excuse you needed to write about this plant!
Turns out that I have it growing in my garden. I know where mine came from but never know where it is going. Haven’t been able to grow it from seen but set some pots under a growing flowering plant and it self seeded into the pots. It climbs the first year for me and acts as an annual. Also a caution. It really likes parts of my yard (especially the lilac hedge)and grows and seeds there rampantly. It grows to the top of the lilacs and covers the canopy – to the detrement of the lilacs. I also find that mine looses its lower leaves about now and looks yellowy brown – like a bleeding heart before it goes dormant.
I would also love to read Alice’s article. Perhaps you could post the link if she sends it to you

Kathryn/ August 3, 2009, 9:39 pm

Like many of your readers I thought for sure bleeding heart. Interesting there is something so akin. More interesting that it moves around! Very pretty. I love surprises. Sounds like you are enjoying yours!
.-= Kathryn/´s last blog ..Center Stage: Hydrangea! =-.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter August 3, 2009, 9:15 pm

That is so pretty! I’ve never heard of it, so it’s not a Midwestern native. You must feel honored when it shows up.
.-= Mr. McGregor’s Daughter´s last blog ..Mishmash Monday =-.

Kathy Purdy August 3, 2009, 9:30 pm

According to the USDA, it is native to your state, though it may not be native to your particular ecosystem or habitat in the state. Of course, when we’re talking about a developed area, the original habitat may be a moot point.