On April 1, 1792, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Benjamin Hawkins about the Caracalla Bean saying "The most beautiful bean in the world is the caracalla bean which, though in England a green-house plant, will grow in the open air in Virginia and Carolina." Also known as Snail Flower or Corkscrew Flower, Caracalla Bean is a tender perennial with striking purplish-blue and white, highly fragrant flowers. It was introduced into European gardens from its native South America in the eighteenth century. Whether Jefferson ever received seeds or plants of this vine is not known. However, the plant was grown in gardens by the 1830s, when Robert Buist wrote in The American Flower Garden Directory, "Phaseolus caracalla (syn. Vigna caracalla), or Snail-Flower is a very curious blooming plant, with flowers of a greenish yellow, all spirally twisted, in great profusion when the plant is well grown."

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Typical Blooming Dates: August - October
Growth Type:
Color(s): White, Purple, Blue
Hardiness Zones: 9 & 10
Location at Monticello: Vegetable Garden
Planting Conditions: Full Sun

Featured in "A Rich Spot of Earth" June 2023 Podcast

Join Monticello's gardeners for a conversation on vining plants, self-sowing annuals, trees that flower in the summer, and weeds and what to do about them.