90619thumbVines in the wild are downright exploitative. They do not support their own weight, so instead climb or sprawl over shrubbery and trees. Some are satisfied staying down below the canopy of the hosts who support them, as if aware that a healthy host will support them for a good long time. Many vines climb aggressively to the top and overwhelm their hosts, even if it eventually kills them.

There is nothing civil about the technique of the strangler figs, which incidentally includes two popular houseplants, fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) and creeping fig (Ficus pumila). They wrap their hosts in networks of stems and roots that strangle the hosts as both the hosts and the clinging vines grow and expand. As the hosts die and rot, the vines develops into self supporting tree trunks.

That is how fiddle-leaf fig, as it is known as a houseplant, grows as a free standing tree rather than as a creeping vine. It is grown from cuttings from the self supporting adult growth rather than the creeping juvenile growth. Conversely, creeping fig is grown from juvenile vines, which find a support to cling to, and ultimately develop shrubby adult growth when they get to the top of the support.

English and Algerian ivies are not quite as aggressive, since they do not intend to kill their hosts. They are not often intentionally grown as vines, and are almost never planted anymore, but their juvenile growth still works as ground cover in many mature landscapes. One of the main problems with ivy is that it is constantly trying to climb walls and trees so that it can bloom and toss seed.

That is not such a problem on concrete walls, but ruins wooden and painted surfaces, and makes a mess of trees. Boston ivy (which is not really an ivy) lacks a juvenile ‘ground cover’ phase, but if kept off of painted and wooden surfaces, happens to work better on concrete infrastructures. It is important to know how a particular vine will behave before selecting it for a particular application.

Carolina jessamine, mandevilla, lilac vine and star jasmine are a few complaisant vines.

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6 thoughts on “Vines For Better Or Worse

    1. I think I would find them more interesting if it were not so often my job to get them under control. I do happen to like our Algerian ivy, even though it is one of the two nastiest vines for us.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. One high-climbing vine that’s common in Austin is poison ivy. The plant is so versatile it also grows as a low, non-climbing forb and as a small shrub. All the forms are toxic to susceptible people, which is to say most people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some of our poison ivy grew up with the redwoods, so is well over a hundred feet high. It does not climb the trunks once they are big, but got into the canopies while the trees were close to the ground, and just stayed with them as they grew. It is nice color in autumn, but I cut them at the base because they dropped leaves and seeds into the nursery stock below.

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