Woody Vines

November 11, 2015 Parkway 036


Strong, woody vines take hold easily and grow quickly, clambering up trees in the wild.  Without a vigilant gardener recognizing and removing these vines, they grow enthusiastically; reaching for the greater light high up in a tree’s canopy.


July 27, 2015 Parkway 014


Tiny airborne seeds, blown on the wind or left by birds, soon sprout and begin the climb.  The Virginia woods are interwoven with these familiar vines:  Trumpet Vine, Poison Ivy, Virginia Creeper, Honeysuckle, native grapes, Wisteria, Clematis, Kudzu and Ivy.

While some are native, others were imported from other parts of the planet as ornamentals…. and escaped.


November 6, 2015 Parkway 071


These vines need the support of shrubs and trees to grow.  Once they scamper up the trunk, they begin weaving through the branches.  Some  form aerial roots to support themselves, and perhaps draw moisture from a tree’s bark.  They aren’t true parasites because all have green leaves for synthesizing their nutrition from sunlight.


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But they can weight a tree down; create shade and sap its strength.


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Some vines, like this poison ivy, eventually grow massive trunks of their own.  These huge old vines hang from the branches in heavily wooded areas looking like great ropes for swinging.


March 6, 2015 birds 019


Most of these vines prove useful in some way.  Native grapes can be gathered.  Most are tasty if they last long enough on the vines to ripen.  But I’ve also harvested grapevines over many autumns to craft wreathes and for holiday decorations.  These vines grow quickly, and respond well to pruning.


October 3, 2015 wet day 021


Others, like Honeysuckle, Clematis, Wisteria and Trumpet vine offer up nectar in summer and provide seeds in winter.  Even Poison Ivy makes berries enjoyed by birds in the winter months.


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Most of these vines crop up in our garden.  Even those which aren’t native have naturalized.  Once invited or allowed, they become fixtures.


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So it is good to recognize them when young, and understand their potential if left to grow.  Poison Ivy is easy:  eradicate it on sight.


"Leaves of three, let it be". Poison Ivy growing in the edge of my garden.

“Leaves of three, let it be”. Poison Ivy growing in the edge of our garden.


But I’m more tolerant of Virginia Creeper, which turns brilliant scarlet in autumn.

I let it grow in a few locations, but remove it where it could choke out younger shrubs and perennials.   But  ‘pruning back’ doesn’t eliminate vines like these.  Their extensive roots are tenacious, too, and simply send up new shoots.  To remove one of these vines, one must get the roots, as well.


October 28, 2014 fall color 081


Honeysuckle vines tend to twine around trunks and branches, entangling themselves in the thickest part of a shrub.  I remove these in most parts of the garden, tolerating them only along one tall hedge for their sweet perfume in early summer.

A friend has offered me some Sweet Autumn Clematis from her garden, and I’m considering accepting the offer.


Sweet Autumn Clematis


I planted some in my last garden to soften a tall wooden fence.  It is appreciated by pollinators, and looks pretty when in bloom.  Sited carefully, it is a wonderful addition to the Autumn garden.  Because it self seeds, you have to remain vigilant or find your garden eventually sporting new vines everywhere.

Our long, moist, warm growing season favors abundant growth from vines.  They are just a part of our landscape. 


October 3, 2015 wet day 001~

Now that many leaves have fallen, Ivy covered trees along the side of the road shine in the sunlight.  They add interest, along with the native Holly trees in the understory and the Cedars and Pines along the edges of the woods.


Along the path from the parking area to the boat ramp and docks.


And the woody trunks of mature vines climb and twist through the stark silhouettes of our newly bare trees.  We see them now in all of their architectural splendor.

Majestic in their own right, they sometimes add to the beauty of our trees.


November 12, 2014 golden day 106~

They remain an important part of the forest community as well, helping feed small mammals and birds through the winter months ahead.


November 11, 2015 Parkway 035


Woodland Gnome 2015

More detailed information on these vines can be had here.


April 19, 2014 wisteria 082





About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

12 responses to “Woody Vines

  1. There is a “No Ivy League” here intent on eradicating this invasive species from Forest Park. I think nurseries are forbidden from offering it. The wild clematis is equally pernicious.

    • Wow…..
      We have a Native Plant Society (the president dies her hair green) who works tirelessly to discourage any private nursery from carrying ivy here. Lowes doesn’t care…. I like the name of your ‘No Ivy League;’ Clever! Thank you for adding your advice on the Clematis, too, Rickii. Is there anywhere this vine is still welcome???

  2. Too bad about the itchy part in poison ivy, I always thought the foliage was awesome and it’s such a good growing vine… until you’re covered in blisters 😦
    I’ll second the ‘no’ on the clematis. It’s invaded many wild areas around here as well, and is a pest in my garden… although the less showy male plants shouldn’t spread for you.

    • Not only is poison ivy trouble if you touch it, it is positively toxic if burned. When the Great Dismal Swamp had a major fire a few years ago, the smoke blanketed us in Virginia Beach. The smoke from burning poison ivy vines affected many people systemically… including yours truly. (I broke out and ended up on steroids) It really is noxious, even if it is pretty and feeds the birds. Thank you for your second on leaving the Clematis out of our garden plan . I’m convinced… ❤ ❤ ❤ WG

      • Yikes! And I thought the weeks of itching were bad enough, I can’t imagine a whole community blanketed in toxic (all natural btw) smoke! One more reason for zero tolerance. -I actually got my latest case from a few tiny seedlings I had pulled in my mothers garden. The tiniest plants, yet they sure did pack a punch.

        • Yes, they do! A patch has run wild in my elderly parents’ garden. We’ve tried everything but ‘Round up’ to control it. I’m so sorry you’ve had another case of the itches. (No good deed…. ? ) Have you tried putting your gloved hand into a heavy plastic bag, and picking the seedlings that way? The plant stays in the bag, securely tied, and then thrown in the garbage.
          It amazes me how many people don’t recognize it or confuse it with Virginia Creeper.
          Please take good care of yourself,

  3. A note of caution on Sweet Autumn Clematis: I found it to be extremely invasive. Seedlings showing up everywhere; they particularly landed/grew in the clumping perennials (phlox, peonies, daylilies, etc.). Very difficult to dislodge. I would never plant one again.

    • Thank you for that, John. There seems to be a native version, and a cultivated one. I grew the cultivated one in Virginia Beach without too many problems. Do you know which one yours is? My friend’s is probably the native, and that is wise advice. Thank you, John! ❤

      • That was in my garden in Chapel Hill. A few of the seedlings even made it to this garden in daylilies and peonies that I moved. I do not remember whether it was a cultivar or the native. You can see the natives growing wild all over the place when they are in bloom. If your friend’s offering has dandylion-like floating seeds flying about, you can be pretty sure they will germinate where you don’t want them. The plant is absolutely beautiful when in bloom, BUT I consider it a thug.

        • OK, John, who can argue with a description like that? We have enough ‘thugs’ here already without inviting any additional ones to the garden party. Thank you for the ‘heads up!’ Best wishes, WG

      • Joan Richards

        Definitely do not plant Sweet Autumn Clematis. I had one for 2 years and then it started appearing everywhere. I keep trying to eradicate it, now 8 years later it is still trying to find a place in my herb garden, got it out and just yesterday found it blooming on my black tupelo tree!

        • It is so pretty! I’m am tempted every year to plant a vine, but more sensible friends and fellow gardeners remind me that is foolish. So I will continue enjoying it in other’s gardens and along the roadsides ❤ ❤ ❤

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