Cochliasanthus caracalla is a leguminous vine from the family Fabaceae, originating in tropical South America and Central America. The species is named caracalla, a corruption of the Portuguese caracol, meaning snail.<ref>Giovanni Battista Triumfetti, Observationes de Ortu ac Vegetatione Plantarum (1685) pp.93-96</ref><ref>Paul Amman, Hortus Bosianus (1686) p. 27</ref> This perennial<ref name="Monticello" /> vine (when grown in a climate without frost) has fragrant flowers said to be reminiscent of hyacinths - with a distinctive curled shape, giving rise to the common names corkscrew vine, snail vine, snail creeper, snailflower or snail bean. It is the only member of the genus Cochliasanthus and was formerly considered to belong to the genus Vigna.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>
This vine is hardy in zones 9 and above, liking full sun and consistently damp soil. It prefers high heat and humidity. In colder zones, it does well in a pot if it is overwintered inside.
Some dataTemplate:Weasel inline indicates some edible properties to this plant - specifically the flowers - but this should be verified from a reputable source before attempting. The seeds, which are technically beans, could be edible.<ref>http://www.sunnygardens.com/garden_plants/phaseolus/phaseolus_0317.php</ref> Parts of the true Corkscrew plant might be poisonous.<ref>"Corkscrew Vine" http://www.easytogrowbulbs.com/p-1338-corkscrew-vine.aspx</ref>
HarvestFlowers typically bloom in late summer or autumn<ref name="Monticello" /><ref name="Logee's Corkscrew Care Sheet">Logee's Corkscrew Flower Template:Webarchive. "Care sheet"</ref> and, if pollination by ants is successful, seeds come soon after. Seeds grow inside pods, like pea pods. If the grower wants to cultivate them, pods should be removed from the plant while still green to prevent exposure to winter temperatures.
There is disagreement among growers on whether nicking the seed coat is more harmful or helpful to germination and some support nicking,<ref name="Grow from seed">How to Grow Cochliasanthus caracalla from Seed. "by Krystal Miller, Demand Media"</ref> while others recommend against it. One widespread practice that does yield a high degree of success is to pour boiling water on the seeds and let the seeds soak overnight<ref name="Grow from seed" /><ref name="Grow" /> in that water as it naturally cools to room temperature.
Burpee recommends that the seeds be sown in "ordinary soil in a sunny area in spring after danger of frost" has passed. The seeds should be planted two to three inches apart and covered with half an inch of "fine soil". Burpee then recommends growers to "firm lightly" the soil and "keep evenly moist".<ref name="Burpee">Burpee Vigna Corkscrew. "Growing Information"</ref>
The seedlings will sprout in one to three weeks depending on the weather. If grown indoors or inside a greenhouse, then the seedlings can be moved outdoors when "spring temperatures remain above 50 F."<ref name="Park Seed">Park Seed - Fragrant Corkscrew Vine Seeds. "description, growth, sale"</ref> These plants will thrive in full sun<ref name="Monticello" /> to partial shade and can attain a height of twenty feet.<ref name="Burpee" />
Flowers can blossom during the same growing season that the seeds were planted in.<ref>http://reviews.burpee.com/1031/prod000416/reviews.htm?sort=helpfulness</ref> The plant blooms for as much as eight weeks.<ref name="Burpee" />
It is possible to grow both vine species from cuttings.<ref name="Grow">Growing information for Snail Vine.</ref>
ConfusionAlmost Eden Snail Vine. "Description, growing, and sale information"</ref> appears to be Vigna speciosa or a close relative. Both are climbing vines with very similar foliage. Common names for both vines include Snail vine, Corkscrew vine, and Shell Vine.
The purple, non-fragrant, invasive flowers of the "Phaseolus giganteus" are said to have snail or snail-shell shaped flowers, hence the origin of the common name. The multicolored, fragrant, non-invasive flowers of the Cochliasanthus caracalla are said to have corkscrew or nautilus-shell shaped flowers, hence the origin of that common name. Though some claim that the leaves of one species are darker and differently sized compared to the leaves of the other, it is difficult to distinguish between these two plants through foliage alone. There have been multiple instances where both plants have been grown side by side for years and the discovery that they were not the same species was made only after the less mature plant finally bloomed. Both plants are pollinated by ants so, without ants, the plant will produce few, if any, seeds.<ref>http://toptropicals.com/cgi-bin/garden_catalog/cat.cgi?uid=Phaseolus_giganteus</ref><ref>http://toptropicals.com/catalog/uid/vigna_caracalla.htm</ref>
Corkscrew vineAlmost Eden Corkscrew Vine. "Description, growing, and sale information"</ref> and is not an invasive plant. http://www.easytogrowbulbs.com/t-Corkscrew-Vine-or-Snail-Vine.aspx</ref> The Corkscrew Vine is less frost tolerant than the Snail Vine.<ref name="Almost Eden's Snail Vine" />
The snail vine, Phaseolus giganteus, has non-fragrant<ref name="Gardening Central">The Snail Vine - Confusion Reigns Supreme. "discusses characteristics of each in detail"</ref> flowers that are a solid, pale purple. The flowers, which grow alone or in small groups<ref name="Almost Eden's Snail Vine" /> rather than in clusters, consist of four petals: one large wavy half-circle on the top, two tear-drop shaped petals that point inwards, and a thin, erect, curly petal sprouting from the center of the flower. Depending on the angle, the two bottom petals can appear to be a single petal that strongly resembles the large, upper petal. When this happens, the three main petals come together to form an open-clam shape. The center of the flower and the end of the thin, erect may have a small area of yellow and/or white but the color is usually faint and only noticeable upon close examination.
Immature flower buds often form fat half-crescents but, unlike the corkscrew vine, these buds are green, yellow, or brown. This plant might be more susceptible to aphids but is definitely invasive and has been compared by multiple growers to kudzu. Rapid growth combined with the ability of vines touching the ground to take root make this an invasive plant.<ref name="Gardening Central" /><ref name="Desert Tropical - Snail Vine" /> This plant has been known to regrow even after all foliage visible above ground has died from frost.<ref name="Desert Tropical - Snail Vine">Desert Tropical - Snail Vine. "description"</ref>
- Differences between the two types
- Snail Vine, "Phaseolus giganteus"
- Corkscrew Vine, Cochliasanthus caracalla
- The Snail Vine - Confusion Reigns Supreme