The Q&A Archives: Mystery Plant

Question: An older man in the area grows this plant from seeds he saves every year but he can't name the plant, so I can't find the seeds and he doesn't share his seeds. He says they are no longer sold in catalogs or stores as it is an old plant. Theplant is an annual, climbing vine with green foliage which turns to dark purple foliage. He grows the plant by a lamp post, and guides it up on strings, in full sun in an eastern exposure. It has pink flowers similar to a sweet pea and trumpet vine flower combined and about that size. The vine produces dark purple, almost black pods. The man says he collects seed pods just before a frost and then opens the pod, drys the seed to use in the spring. He says the seeds are difficult to get to germinate. The pods are about 6-8 inches long and about 1 inch wide, sort of waxy or shiny looking. The pods also look thick. I have looked in catalogs, so far unsuccessfully, and thought it might be in your Heirloom catalog, so I ordered one. I would really liketo grow this plant if I could find the seeds and learn the name of the plant. It is really beautiful! I hope that you can help. Thank you for your time and efforts.

Answer: I'm happy to say I think I know the plant you are looking for and, even better, you can find it in the Burpee Heirloom catalog. It's called hyacinth bean (Dolichos), and it's on page 38. You can order the seeds via the internet ( or by calling (800) 888-1447. Enjoy it!

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