Les Harrison is the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Director
Homeowners have had a tough summer maintaining the yard while fighting the onslaught of weeds. Controlling problem plant life is difficult, but not impossible–the best tactic may be strategically planting non-invasive varieties in your lawn or garden.
Vines are an all too familiar landscape invader. While some are pretty, it seems most have thorns and barbs meant to ward off any attempts of eradication.
Vines are particularly effective at territorial conquest. They will climb over almost anything, then cover the canopy with leaves which shade out the original foliage.
The most notable example is kudzu, sometimes known as “the vine that ate the south.” Introduced from East Asia as an erosion solution, this vining plant has invaded thousands of acres, costing millions of dollars to control.
Japanese Climbing Fern is competing with Kudzu for the most land subjugated by an invasive species. In addition to pushing out native species, it acts as a wildfire accelerant during drought years.
There are, however, some lesser known vines which rival the tenacious behavior of the most infamous invasive examples currently plaguing residents of Wakulla County. The best which can be hoped for with these weeds is control, but eradication is highly unlikely.
Cypress vine is a member of the morning glory genus, Ipomoea quamoclit, as it is known scientifically, is a native of Central and South America’s tropical regions.
The bright red prolific blooms were the reason this vine was originally imported, being sold as an attractive ornamental for landscapes and container gardening. Additionally, this plant is attractive to hummingbirds which compete for the bloom’s nectar.
Unfortunately, the copious mid-summer blooms are the basis for an abundant and viable seed supply from each plant. This annual quickly escaped into the wild where it tolerates a variety of soil conditions just so long as it is in full sun.
The most productive sites include some moisture with organic matter in the soil, but the cypress vine will handle sandy well drained soils. The tiny seeds are attractive snacks for birds, which deposit undigested seeds along their flight path.
Carolina Jessamine is another inexhaustible source of vines which thread their way up tree trunks in search of better sun exposure. If left undisturbed, the vines grow well in excess of one half in diameter.
Many of the vines run horizontally under the leaf litter and the soil’s surface, some exceeding 100 feet in length. All along the subterranean system, stems produce shoots with leaves and roots.
An area can become quickly crisscrossed with vines. When unearthed they resemble a net, and all are from the same parent plant. When broken, the segments remaining in the soil and leaf mixture will rapidly initiate their own series of vines and shoots.
This vine is native to the area, but ranges from the mid-southern state to Central America. A heavy spring bloomer with fragrant yellow blossoms, it slowly moves into new areas by way of its stealthy root system.
While the yellow blossoms are attractive for many horticultural applications, there control requires regular maintenance. Additionally, their nectar is toxic to European Honeybees.
Both cypress vine and yellow jessamine have attractive features, but the observer is quickly entangled with other problematic issues.
To learn more about flowering vines in Wakulla County, contact your UF/IFAS Wakulla Extension Office at 850-926-3931 or https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/wakullaco/