Yellow or Mexican Butterfly Vine (Mascagnia macroptera): A Seasonal Look

While not the real deal, I welcome these butterfly doppelgangers to my garden:

The chartreuse seedpod is beginning its morph to the mature-seed incarnation.

This golden toast heralds the final seed product.


These two seed pod examples develop on a fabulous vine, the Yellow or Mexican Butterfly vineMascagnia macroptera. 

Butterfly vine is a native to Mexico, but grows southward into Central America.  Several sources I’ve come across mention that the early English naturalist and botanist, Joseph Banks, observed Butterfly vine growing in Brazil.  

I’ve grown my Butterfly vine for at least a decade, maybe longer–I don’t remember exactly when I planted it.  The thick, twisted main trunk confirms that mine isn’t a newby vine.

I first came across Butterfly vine when I was a volunteer gardener at my children’s elementary school about 20 years ago.  One grew at the back of a portable building, with western exposure and no water source readily available.  I recall that it was summer that I found the vine–a Texas summer, folks–and the vine was as fresh as a daisy and blooming its clusters of petite yellow flowers.

Full sun, drought-tolerant, deer resistant, and attractive?  Yep,  that’s a vine for me!

My Butterfly vine grows in an opposite situation, receiving only dappled or diffused light, depending on the season. Yet it thrives with the same great qualities as in full sun, though with fewer blooms most years.  The only maintenance that I employ with this vine is the same one that I do with my hair: tuck away those annoying, wayward tendrils that fall into my face!  I’ve never experienced any negative issues with this vine:  no debilitating diseases, no invasive insects.  

During a hard winter, where there’s at least one multi-day freeze well into the 20s or teens, the vine may be rendered dormant.  The last cold winter like that was in 2014.

The “butterflies” certainly held their own that winter, even when the rest of the vine suffered freeze damage.

Even with the vine losing its leaves to the hard freeze, the foliage returned vigorously from the roots and along the mature stems once longer days and warmer temperatures arrived.

Last year’s winter was mild, but a late, hard freeze blasted through in March. This is how the vine responded:

The vine lost a good portion–but not all–of its leaves; what was lost, came back quickly.  

In a mild winter like this one of 2019-20,  the vine retains its evergreen habit.

With climate change, I’m guessing that this vine is now mostly an evergreen for my  USDA zone 8B garden.  According to Monrovia, Butterfly vine grows in USDA zones 8-10.  I can imagine that for gardens growing significantly farther north than my own,  the vine is an annual or semi-annual plant.  

The vine flushes out during the wet and cool spring months, preparing for its summer/autumn blooming.

Green-n-growing-n-fresh is Butterfly vine’s contribution to the summer garden.  Typically, the yellow flowers don’t appear until mid-to-late summer, sometimes not until autumn.   In full sun, the flowers appear earlier and are more numerous.  Flowers on my vine are scattered, given the shady conditions that they grow in.

The number of bloom clusters also varies according to rainfall or irrigation.  I don’t water much–just twice per month during summer–but if there’s decent rainfall in late July, August, or September, the vine yellows-up nicely.  The vine weathers drought beautifully; I’ve never seen it wilt, nor does it lose leaves during that time.  But for its yellow beauties to perform, some extra wet stuff is an appreciated must.

Butterflies and honeybees sip the nectar, and I’ve seen lizards and smaller songbirds hide in the lush foliage, so I think Butterfly vine qualifies as a solid wildlife plant. 

Even with minimal rainfall, there are still pops of yellow along the vine. The vine blooms throughout autumn, with blooms eventually morphing into their seed-producing, butterfly selves. 

If you live in USDA zones 8-10 plant this lovely, fast-growing, water-wise vine. Yellow or Mexican Butterfly vine is friendly to a variety of pollinators and provides cover for other wildlife.  It’s not invasive and works well on trellises, fences, and arbors. Most years, you and your wild garden buddies will enjoy its spring and summer glory and its evergreen foliage in winter. In a mild winter, the vine retains its foliage and its butterflies. After a hard freeze, all bets are off.

But with this vine, you might have butterflies year-round!!








29 thoughts on “Yellow or Mexican Butterfly Vine (Mascagnia macroptera): A Seasonal Look

      • Mine has never reproduced through the seeds, but does climb along an attached fence, which I want it to do. I’m guessing that even though there are pollinators at the blooms, “the” pollinator isn’t around, so seed reproduction isn’t a thing. I wonder why yours doesn’t bloom?

        Are you craftsy? I didn’t mention that in the post, but craft lovers often use the seed pods for dried arrangements, wreaths and the like.


  1. I planted my butterfly vine in 2018. That winter it died back to the ground. It finally came out last year but is still only about 12 inches tall. It’s in the shade of a live oak, but gets some very late afternoon sun. I’m in north central Texas, zone 8. Is it still getting established? It never bloomed and has lost all its leaves again this winter. I don’t see signs it’s coming out yet.


    • Sounds like it’s probably in a lot of shade and you’re far enough north that it wants to act like an annual. You might contact you County Extension agent, or check online whether your winters might be too cold. Good luck with it!


    • It’s a terrific plant! Just remember that you’re colder than we are and it might be a bit harder, especially if you’re able to find one now (or soon) and there’s a hard winter next year. Still, I bet it’ll come back from the roots. Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Probably will not try to get a plant this year. I have a bunch of things already that needs to go in the ground. I can’t do much and have to pay my old helper extra when he works in the yard. I dig a few holes each day, myself and the going is slow due to rain every few days or so.


  2. I’ve never seen or heard of this one. I’d have one for the seed pods as much as for the flowers — they’re just glorious. I’m not crafty, but those pods could tempt me in that direction. I agree that the trunk is quite an attraction, too. I often look at the vines in the woods and marvel at the ways they contort themselves into such interesting shapes.


    • Yes, I love that trunk. I never noticed it until it was thick and twisted. I love the butterflies. I was cleaning the pond today–ugh, it’s a long day–and the vine is just behind the pond. I noticed that most of the butterflies have dropped. Oh well, there will be more later this season.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I recently purchased one at my local ACE Hardware store and set it in a shaded porch facing north. It has only been a week and a half and appears to be thriving so I transplanted it to a larger pot this morning as I am searching on-line to see if it can continue to grow and thrive potted. I may move it to the south porch and trellis eventually, but that would give it full sun in our current 100 degree weather so I need to observe it while learning more. Any info would be appreciated.


    • Diana, I don’t know where you live, so it’s a bit difficult to give advice. The post is really the best information that I can give about this plant, vis-a-vis my own experience with it. I’m not a fan of perennials in pots, as they tend to require more water and are more subject to damage from a hard freeze or from drying out because of lack of irrigation. All that said, it’s a great plant, I’d recommend it if you live in the southern half of Texas. You might find more information about how well it does in other states with some research on the internet. Good luck!


  4. My favorite vine. I’ve had this plant for about 5 years and it has bloomed every year. HOWEVER, with our deep freeze this year, it looks pretty dead. Not willing to give up on it yet but haven’t done anything to it yet. Don’t know if I should wait longer to see if new growth occurs or cut it back now and hope for root growth. What do you think?


    • Me too, Laura–it’s a definite star in the garden! I checked this afternoon and yes, mine is still alive. (‘We’re not dead yet!’) I haven’t pulled down any of the dead part, which is most of it right now, but there are green sprigs coming up from the base of the plant and runners along the ground. If you don’t have that yet, give it a little longer and keep your fingers and toes crossed. Good luck with it!


    • Probably, Saul. My vine hasn’t died back in a freeze since 2014, until this year. But it sent out runners along the ground, which have rooted, and they’re all coming up with new growth. That’s perfect for my situation, but I imagine not so great for a septic system. Vines typically have that king of growth pattern.


  5. Your vine is so lovely! I have a question about my newer butterfly vines. I am a newbie to vines, and I have two young ones that are doing well and blooming here in Mesa, AZ. Each plant has two shoots that have wound their way vertically to the top of the trellis. After some research, I recently unwound them and re-wove them horizontally from the bottom to start filling in better from the bottom up. I also read somewhere that if I pinch them they will produce multiple shoots, which would be great to help it fill in faster. I took this to mean pinching from the twining end, but it wasn’t clear and I have been unable to find specifics on exactly what part of the vine should be pinched off and how to go about do this. Any input is appreciated!


    • Hi Leah! I hadn’t heard about the pinching business, but it makes some sense. Most plant have reproductive-type cells at stem nodes, so if you pinch them, they would likely gear up and produce two stems, rather than just one.

      My vine was completely frozen back in our 8 day deep freeze in February, but it’s come back from the roots and that’s true of the mother plant that I plants many years ago and also the runners along a fence. They’re pretty hardy plants. Good luck with yours and let me know how the pinch-for-growth experiment works!


  6. I loved my “vine”….had a couple light freezes this year and all the vines are brown. Do I just leave them or prune it back. Thanks to anyone that can help.


    • Hi Karen! You can do what you want with the dead leaves/stems. I pulled some of mine off, left other on. I don’t know where you live, but here in Austin, mine is coming back and it came back last year after the February storm which was much colder and for a longer time. This vine is pretty tough, so it should return for you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s