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Vines:  Getting all tied up

Most of us have a love-hate relationship with vines.  The hate part of the relationship is mostly over the aggressive or invasive vines. The people who love vines are looking at their benefits such as attracting wildlife.   Which, no matter where you stand on the love vine or hate vines issue; many vines can grow quickly and become a bit of a nuisance.

Some benefits of vines: 

  • They provide nectar and berries for wildlife such as bees, butterflies, and birds.
    • Those vines include coral honeysuckle (hummingbirds), passion flower vine (butterflies) or native crossvine (hummingbirds)
  • Vine leaves can provide food for butterfly larvae. We often forget we must have caterpillars, which eat leaves, to have the beautiful adult butterflies.  Some native vines include:
    • Passion flower vine attracts Gulf fritillary and zebra longwing
    • Virginia creeper attracts sphynx moths
    • Climbing hemp vine attracts skippers
    • Groundnut vine attracts skippers
  • They can create privacy, shade or delineate an area when grown on fence lines, arbors or pergolas

Some problems with vines:

  • Invasive vines, such as the skunk vine, can take over an area and cover the plants we desire in a very short period. These invasive vines grow quickly, and they often produce seed which can be scattered. Native vines and other plants are often choked out and covered making it difficult to determine where the vine begins. We should be vigilant in monitoring these vines, so their spread is minimal. Never spray non-selective herbicides on these pests, it would be better to paint the herbicide on some of the leaves and wait for it to work. Be patient, it can take more than 2 weeks for the vine to indicate it is declining. Plus, it may take more than one application and several years.
  • Vines can become so large they can girdle the trunk of trees if allowed to grow too large. These vines should be cut at the root which will cause the vine at the top to die. A non-selective herbicide can be applied (not sprayed but painted) immediately to the cut portion near the root to help prevent new growth. This process may take several applications depending on the size of the root.
  • It is possible for the vines to take fire from the ground to the tops of trees. Keeping the vines pruned and off the trunk of trees is important.