The Flame Creeper (Combretum microphyllum) when in flower is a brightly coloured creeper to look out for on your travels around Ingwelala.
It is sometimes mistaken for a parasitic plant, advertising itself with a majestic display of red to crimson colour. However, it is no parasite, belonging to the Combretum genus from the Combretaceae family. I am sure you will identify with this genus when you read that the bushwillows and leadwoods are also from the genus Combretum.
Flame creepers are widespread in Southern Africa, preferring the hot dry regions, growing in woodlands and bushveld.
The flame creeper is a deciduous plant, a fairly fast growing climber that spreads itself in the canopy of larger trees. Without substantial support it will grow in the form of a shrub. Flowers appear in spring (September – October) before the smallish leaves sprout. Flowers are prolific with bright crimson red petals and characteristically long stamens. The fruit are 4-winged, another feature of Combretum.
The flowers attract insects, butterflies and an array of birds, such as orioles, brown-headed parrots, sunbirds and barbets. Pollination is through these creatures utilising the plant.
- Other interesting facts about the flame creeper:
- It forms a wonderful garden feature and propagates easily from seed.
- It is frost sensitive but drought resistant.
- Uses in traditional medicine included treatment of a retained placenta and mental disorders.
- Can be misidentified with the rarer Combretum paniculatum (forest flame-creeper) but unlikely due to different habitat requirements.
- Leaves are edible and browsed by antelope.
The Flame Creeper in flower
New leaf shoots of the Flame Creeper
Facts researched off the Internet. Words & pictures by John Llewellyn.