Sprouting from the shady forest floor, wild vines have the ability to successfully climb trees or shrubs to reach sunlight. Some vines climb with coiled tendrils that hold them securely to the bark and stems of a tree. Certain species, such as the Parthenocissus quinquefolia Virginia creeper, have small discs at the end of the tendrils that help the vine adhere to tree bark. Some wild vines climb by twisting around the tree.
Wild vines can pose a danger to trees. Vines that grow by twisting canes can choke a tree as it tightens around the trunk and limbs. The sheer weight of some vines on a tree can deform and distort the tree. During the winters months, the added weight of the vine with a heavy snowfall can cause the tree's limbs to break. The tree's top may even topple over with the excessive weight. A heavy vine also will reduce the amount of sunlight that the tree receives. Vines spreading across the forest floor can choke out seedlings and prevent the tree's seeds from germinating.
Animal Food Source and Cover
Wild vines that grow up trees offer an ideal food source for birds and wildlife. The Vitis spp. wild grape produces juicy berries for the crested flycatcher, tufted titmouse, northern mockingbird, American robin, brown thrasher and several woodpecker species. It grows up trees about 30 feet. White-tailed deer also enjoy consuming the leaves of the vine. The seeds of the Dioscorea villosa wild yam vine feeds wild squirrels. The delicate vine grows up forest trees and across tree branches. The density of wild vines growing in trees also provides protective cover for wildlife and birds.
Vines play a crucial role in rainforests around the world. They climb trees to reach the sunshine; once in tree canopies the vines grow outward, entwining them to create a weblike structure used by arboreal animals. Woody vines, called liana, can span more than 3,000 feet in length. The vines' leaves can account for 40 per cent of the canopy that shades the rainforest floor. Arboreal animals, such as spider monkeys, koalas and orang-utans, spend their lives predominately in the canopy, utilising vines to move from tree to tree. More than 2,500 vines grow throughout the rainforests of the world and help create the diverse ecosystem of that region.
Benefits and Drawbacks
Some vine types can benefit humans by providing a food source, such as the Apios Americana groundnut vine, which occurs across the eastern United States. Native Americans used both the seeds and tubers of the vine in culinary dishes. The tubers offer three times the protein that a potato provides, according to the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The groundnut, a legume, also adds nitrogen to the surrounding soil, which benefits the trees and other native plants of the forest. The nut vine often occurs beside poison ivy. Toxicodendron radicans poison ivy vine can plague humans who come into contact with tits foliage by causing an adverse dermatological reaction. Despite its drawbacks to humans, deer enjoy nibbling on the vine's foliage and its white berries are relished by robins, grosbeaks and catbirds.
- Iowa State University Extension; Iowas Shrubs and Vines
- City of Ann Arbor: Native Vines
- Purdue University; Wild Grapevines Can Harm Your Woodland Investment; Dave Mercker; 1996
- Fairfax County Public Schools: Wild Grape
- North American Native Plant Society; Dioscorea villosa, Wild Yam; Tom Atkinson
- Native Florida Wildflowers; Ground Nut - Apios Americana; Craig Huegel; Jan. 2011