Kennedia nigricans

It’s early March, so it’s time for my mind to drift to thoughts of visiting California for wildflowers and gardens. This photograph is from my 2008 foray, when I visited the Arboretum at the University of California Santa Cruz.

The UCSC Arboretum is famed for its extensive southern hemisphere collections. Accordingly, this vine / climber is a species from Western Australia, Kennedia nigricans, variously known as black kennedia, black coral-pea, black-bean or snakevine. As Wikipedia notes, Kennedia nigricans is a “vigorous” plant used for covering embankments or structures (and this was the case at UCSC Arboretum, where it enveloped a trellis if I recall correctly). As noted by Rodger Elliot, though, in Australian Plants Online: Australian Climbing Plants: “…it is worth considering…using climbers by letting them wander through other plants. There are many Australian climbers which are not overly vigorous which are ideal for this purpose but you need to be selective. If you try this with Kennedia nigricans, K.retrorsa or K.rubicunda you’ll find that not only will other plants in the garden be swamped but your fence may also be overcome and end up lying horizontal! I’ve seen K.nigricans kill a forest oak (Allocasuarina torulosa) just by smothering it.” Given that individuals can reach at least 4m high and have a spread of 6m, it seems a species to be judiciously used in cultivated situations.

Nearly 80% of the world’s antibiotics (including antibacterials and antifungals) are derived from soil-borne bacteria, primarily from the genus Streptomyces. However, it is also known that some streptomycetes can live within plants as endophytic bacteria. Not all plant species have endophytic streptomycetes, and the minority that do typically only have one or two species. In one survey of Kennedia nigricans, though, thirty-nine species were discovered: Scanning electron microscopy of some endophytic streptomycetes in snakevine – Kennedia nigricans (Castillo et. al., 2006, doi:10.1002/sca.4950270606). Of the thirty-nine, seven were found to have antibacterial or antifungal properties.

Kennedia nigricans
Kennedia nigricans

10 responses to “Kennedia nigricans”

  1. Anne

    It seems sometimes that Mother Nature is trying to slap us in the face with “invasive” plants to get us to figure out how much they can actually help us.

  2. Eric in SF

    Daniel, I’m heading to Death Valley on the 20th to see the bloom there and then it’s wildflowers pretty much every weekend, finishing with the High Sierras in late August!
    We have this black pea at Strybing Arboretum in San Francisco, too.

  3. Connie

    How striking! How often does it bloom?
    Why is it a “pea”? Is it a legume? Is it edible?

  4. elizabeth a airhart

    my goodness stand in one place this vine
    will cover a person up in no time at all
    i read the page suggested darwin found that
    vineing plants vine in a different way in
    the southern part of the world then from
    the northern part of the world
    thank you

  5. John Scarlis

    From the few leaves I can see, they look similar to the kudzu plant. The plant you write, performs like the kudzu.

  6. jan

    WOuld it be hardy in N Europe? Anyone know?

  7. oldgreentree

    Amazing blossom..
    Seems really vigorous-thank you for posting all these information!!

  8. lisa

    Facinating information on the endophytic streptomycetes; I wonder how this will be used in the future.

  9. Edna Gardener

    From a distance the pattern of the flowers looks like a Yellowjacket or a hornet sitting on the leaves. Is there any way this might help pollination?

  10. Brian Bungay

    Planted small starter plant in early September.Now about 5′ tall but bottom leaves have brown patches and holes also small brown holes on higher leaves.Anybody know what to do about this? Thanks.

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