Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Native Vines in our Yard

We had several different native vines growing in our yard when we purchased our home. Native vines are an important component in plant communities providing food (berries and leaves) and cover to insects and birds.

Often homeowners get frustrated with vines because of their growth habit. When we have garden openhouses, visitors often ask how I control my Woodbine ~ Parthenocissus inserta (a relative of Virginia Creeper).

I utilize it as a ground cover until other woodland natives get established. I do check on it periodically throughout the summer so that it is not starting to climb up any trees or shrubs. I find it very manangeable and if need by I will thin it out once other woodland natives get established. I keep a large quantity of the vine growing on the fences in the yard.

Another vine we have is the Riverbank Grape ~ Vitis riparia which can grow 20 feet in one season. It can smother other native species around it so it is a vine that needs to be attended to regularly in the home landscape.

If encouraged to grow in the right situation it is a very attractive vine. I have seen people utilize it to grow over pergolas to provide shade.

We have this vine growing along our chainlink fence and it does a nice job of covering the fence. We often see migratory birds seeking cover beneath these vines on the fence.


The third vine in our yard is Virgin's Bower ~ Clematis virginiana. It is a fast growing Clematis and can reach 20 feet in one season as well. I found it growing underneath some Gray Dogwood and have since transplanted it to grow on large trellises on our garage. I cut it off in the spring at around 3'. We have cardinals utilizing the vine to build nests in.

Like most Clematis, it likes a slightly cooler spot to grow where its roots are well shaded. The one on the east side of our garage seems to thrive much better than the one on the west side.

A more recent addition to our yard is the Hog Peanut ~ Amphicarpaea bracteata. We did not plant this but it has started to show up in the restored partially shaded woodland areas in our yard. It is often mistaken for Poison Ivy having a similar arrangement of three leaflets but the Hog Peanut does not develop a woody stem like Poison Ivy.

The flower on hog peanut is a light pink pea like flower. Our hog peanut vines have yet to flower.




The last native vine in our yard that we did not introduce is the Smooth Carrionflower Vine ~ Smilax herbacea. The flower shown below is round and about 1" in diameter and has an odor like rotting flesh, the reason for its common name. This is not an aggressive vine and rarely grows more than 3 feet in one season. It has attractive dark green leaves and tends to thrive in dry soils and part shade. The fruit are dark blue berries arranged in an umbel like the flower.

A close relative to this vine which I have seen growing in our neighborhood is the Bristly Greenbrier Vine ~ Smilax tamnoides.


Here's a photo of the Smooth Carrionflower Vine flower. Don't get too close when in flower!