This Sailor is Drunk!

by | Mar 4, 2015 | 2 comments

Quisqualis indica at Missouri Botanical Garden

 Commonly called Drunken Sailor vine, Quisqualis indica is a fast growing vine with wonderfully scented flowers. I first encountered this gorgeous vine at the Missouri Botanical Garden in 2007. I saw no identification and so have always wondered what it was. The next time I saw it was in 2011 at Phipps Conservatory in Pennsylvania. I again wondered what it was, and even though it looked different, I thought maybe they were related because of the color of the flowers and the vining habit.

Quisqualis indica at the Missouri Botanical Garden
Quisqualis flowers with the sun shining through -Missouri Botanical Garden

 I’m pretty sure the difference is that one is a single form and the other is a double form. The common names include rangoon creeper and drunken sailor vine. It starts out looking like a shrub and eventually starts vining. This characteristic puzzled early plant hunters. It’s botanical name Quisqualis means “What is this?” which harkens back to the puzzlement of taxonomists about this shrub/vine.

Quisqualis hanging in the Phipps Conservatory

The flowers are so gorgeous (I think) because the plant seems to have three colors of flowers on the same plant. The flowers start out as white, fading to pink and then a dark pink, almost red. Because it has older and newer flowers on the same plant, it seems it has multi- colored flowers. 
This plant is a rampant vine and is usually only seen in conservatories where it has plenty of room to roam about. I don’t think this huge vine would work as a houseplant but I might try it in my sunroom if I can find one. Why not?

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  1. sha

    Thank you for the article! Do you know why they are called Drunken Sailors? 🙂

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      I think in its natural habitat, it grows like crazy covering everything in its path. Someone must have thought it zigzagged like a drunken sailor, or something. Sometimes colloquial names are unable to be explained. Thanks for finding my blog!


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