|Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans)|
The pleasure didn't last. All too soon, we learned why this vine with its glorious blossoms is called a thug.
Our perky little volunteer burgeoned with the rampant enthusiasm of kudzu. Its root system produced vast underground networks (some gardeners who have tried to eradicate trumpet vine claim the roots grow up to 40 feet deep!), and sent up new sprouts that quickly grew into astonishingly robust invaders that rivaled the Mongol Hordes. Attempting to pull up the vines was like trying to pull up a sewer line: the linkages just kept going and going.
We tried mowing, but that only seemed to encourage new sprouts. Neighbors who had been gifted with similar "volunteer" trumpet vines grew so desperate that they set aside their organic practices and tried dabbing herbicides on the leaves. Their trumpet vines laughed.
You might think this was much ado about nothing—after all, trumpet vines are gorgeous, and hummingbirds adore the blossoms. But trumpets can be deadly. They develop woody stems that naturally want to grow up fences, walls, telephone poles...and trees. Grown on a wooden fence, it will insinuate itself between the boards, where it will proceed to slowly tear the fence apart. Allowed to grow up a porch post, it will probe through the tiniest openings until it finds a way inside the eaves and attic of your house.
|Trumpet vine growing up an oak tree.|
Trumpet vines aren't alone in their ability to damage or destroy trees. Climate change is resulting in more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere—a boon to vining plants. In the past, vines such as Virginia creeper, honeysuckle, Boston ivy and wild grape could be kept within the bounds of reason. Now they run amok, growing at rates unheard of before. I've even seen wisteria blooming in the tops of tall cottonwoods.
Vines don't have to produce powerful woody stems to do severe damage to trees. Years ago, we had a stand of young oak trees in which a wild grape vine grew. Before I noticed what was happening, the leafy vine had grown to the top of the canopy, spreading in the sunlight and shading out the tree foliage. Deprived of their ability to photosynthesize, the trees died.
Even vine-stressed trees that survive can be so weakened by their unwanted "guests" that they are left vulnerable to extreme-weather events. During drought conditions, these vines drink up scarce water resources that could have gone to the tree. And vine-shaded canopies produce less of the energy that a tree needs to heal injuries or resist pests and diseases.
So these days, I limit vines in my garden to annuals. And when I see any vine growing up a tree trunk, I'm quick to cut it off.
What experiences with "treacherous vines" have you had in your garden?