Welcome to Superoceras, a blog about science and natural history, slightly biased towards paleontology and zoology, but inclusive of all sciences. Started in October of 2009, my goal is to communicate scientific knowledge (and the occasional piece of nonsense) in an informative and entertaining manner. Feel free to contact me with questions, comments, concerns, or criticism at superoceras(at)gmail(dot)com, and follow me on Twitter @Superoceras for all that and more in 140 characters or less!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Backyard Botany: Native Maryland vines

As I mentioned in my last post, I spend quite a good deal of time fighting the growth of invasive vines in my yard.  I'll admit, I always feel guilty killing off any plants, invasive or not.  But controlling invasive species and making sure they do not spread is essential to protecting and preserving the local ecosystem.  That is why as I tear non-native plants out, I always try and replace them with species that can be found growing naturally in my area.  And lucky for me, there are several such species that can be found in the region of Maryland that I call home.

Parthenocissus quinquefolia, working its way up my gutters.
Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is probably the most notorious.  This hardy, woody vine is a serious climber (just ask the second story of my house), has a beautiful red fall color, and has berries that provide a winter food source for birds and wildlife.  Over the summer months, you can find its five leaflet clusters growing up almost any surface, using both tendrils and the sticky pads on them to maintain their home.  Luckily, I have this tenacious vine growing naturally in my yard already.

The first, lonely cluster of Lonicera sempervirens blooms on the trellis.  
While Virginia creeper is great, its flowers are nothing to write home about.  So when I took all of the Japanese honeysuckle out of my yard, my girlfriend and I both wanted to find a new vine that would show attractive flowers, and bring hummingbirds and butterflies to the yard. We found just that in the native trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens).  It has really beautiful pink flowers, and the two we planted on our trellises easily acclimated to the climate and soil conditions.  I highly recommend this shrubby vine for anyone looking to add a little color to their yard.  It even keeps its green over winter, and the hummingbirds love it.

A black-capped chickadee investigates the trumpet flower of Campis radicans.
Another flowering Maryland vine that I'm still trying to get my hands on is trumpet creeper (Campis radicans).  I haven't found any nurseries that carry it yet, but am very familiar with this plant, as it grows all over the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  The next time I see its trumpet shaped flowers when I'm out and about, I'll have to look for the seed pods it drops right after flowering so I can get some in the ground.  This is also a big hummingbird attractor, and other small birds like to nest in its foliage.

There is a garden fence in there somewhere.  You just have to get past all of the Calystegia sepium appalachiana (and hope it doesn't choke your vegetables) first.
But even the native vines that can be found in my area have to be monitored and controlled for growth.  Planting the vines is one thing, but if you want to keep them from overtaking your other trees and shrubs, you have to be vigilant.  Hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium) is another native herbaceous perennial vine, and it has lovely white flowers that look very much like its morning glory cousins, but it spreads like wildfire.  I'll walk out my back gate in the morning, and by the time I'm home from work, it will have reached across the gap, preventing me from entering my own property.  Any and all of these vines, while great where I live, could easily be considered invasive in other areas because of their ability to latch hold of the scarcest resources and thrive.

1 comment:

  1. A note on trumpet vine. It is native but extremely invasive and almost impossible to control once established.