Allegany Vine, Climbing Bleeding Hearts
The Allegany vine, Adlumia fungosa, is a little known native vine that more gardeners should get to know. It is also known as Climbing Fumitory or Mountain Fringe. It’s in the poppy family, but looks similar to Bleeding Hearts and corydalis. Allegany vine (sometimes spelled Allegheny) is native to the Allegany Mountains, northeastern US and Canada. It’s never numerous, and is a species of concern, or endangered in many places. Allegany vine’s elusive nature is part of its charm. It can pop up randomly in woodlands or older gardens, from seeds long buried in the soil.
Allegany vine grows naturally in moist soil at woodland edges. Yet it’s also found on sunny sides of banks or cliffs and is adaptable in the garden. It’s hardy in plant zones 3-7. One should never remove Allegany vine from the wild. Some native plant catalogs will offer young plants or seeds and that is how the gardener who likes unusual things should get his or her plant.
Allegany vine has compound leaves consisting of 3 leaflets, which in turn have 2-3 lobes, each with a tiny point at the tip. The leaves are similar to the leaves of common Bleeding Heart. Allegany vine is a biannual plant, with the plant forming a base rosette of ferny leaves similar to common Bleeding Heart in the first year. In the second year it makes a scrambling vine that can get to be about 10 feet long.
The flowers of Allegany Vine are also similar to Bleeding Heart, an oval “balloon” flaring at the bottom. They are white, pink or rarely lavender. They occur in early summer of the second year and make a dainty, pretty show dangling all along the vine. The flowers turn into tubular, papery seed pods filled with tiny shiny black seeds. If you are lucky the plant will reseed itself and pop up for years to come in the garden.
Plant Allegany vine in partial shade. It likes moist, loamy soil but will grow in other locations. You’ll need something for the second year plant to climb or scramble up. That could be a small tree or post or it will scramble along the tops of nearby plants and along the ground, where its flowers won’t be as visible. In good garden soil they won’t need fertilization. Keep the vine watered in dry weather. No serious pests or diseases are known.
Starting from seed
Allegany vine can be tricky to start from seeds. Collect seeds when the pods split and plant them in small containers, just barely covered in soil. Leave the pots outside over winter in a safe protected spot. Alternately you can collect the seeds and subject them to a cold dormancy period by putting them in the refrigerator for two months before sowing.
Seeds usually germinate irregularly, over a long period of time. Best germination temperatures are between 60-70 degrees F. Use a fine, seed starting medium for planting and keep it moist. Once a plant has 3-4 leaves it can be transplanted to its growing spot after it’s acclimated to the outdoors for a few days. If you are growing it inside for a while provide good light and temperatures around 70 degrees. Remember plants won’t bloom until the second year.
I was able to get a plant many years ago. I don’t have flowers every year but I can usually find a first year plant in the bed each year. In some years I have beautifully blooming vines. This is a plant that comes and goes on its own time schedule. But if you are interested in native plants of delicate beauty with the wild left in them, Allegany Vine is the perfect subject.