Five Native Vines that Benefit Wildlife

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One of the most appealing aspects of gardening, to me, is the ability to create beauty in three dimensions. In my yard, any vertical surface is a potential support for vines and climbers. And my ugly chain-link fence, necessary for keeping my dogs and the local coyotes separated, is perfect for growing a variety of vines. I have a lot of fence. So, I need a lot of vines. Here are five native vines that will help wildlife:

  • Pipevine or Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla) – This deciduous vine has large, heart-shaped leaves and is widely cultivated outside its native range as a host plant for Pipevine swallowtails.  Pipevine’s native habitat is in Appalachian forests and along stream beds, so it prefers part shade and organic, well-drained soil with adequate moisture. That said, I have one planted in a bed that has a lot of clay, and it seems to be surviving there, if not thriving, so I think it is a fairly hardy vine.  One thing they do seem to need is regular watering. Pipevine can climb up to 30 feet and spread up to 20.
  • Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) – This east Texas woodland native vine is not invasive like some Asian varieties, but is still loved by hummingbirds. A very hardy vine, it will tolerate sun to part shade, and almost any type of soil, although it will do best in rich soil. Much of the online literature says it prefers moist soil, but it has proven to be very drought tolerant in my yard.
  • Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) – A member of the Trumpet-Creeper family, this evergreen vine can climb up to 50 feet in the right conditions. Another native to the eastern part of the U.S., it tolerates a wide variety of conditions. Crossvine is a nectar source for hummingbirds and butterflies, and deer will also browse it.
  • Western White Clematis, Virgin’s Bower, or Pepper Vine (Clematis ligusticifolia) – Native to the western half of the country, Western White Clematis is a tough vine that prefers rich, moist soils but can be very drought tolerant. According the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, it is widely adaptable. This vine benefits birds, hummingbirds, and pollinators such as bees. It is also browsed by deer. Be aware that most parts are mildly toxic to people.
  • Virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana) – An eastern relative of Western White Clematis, Virgin’s bower prefers similar conditions, yet also does well in dry shade. It provides similar benefits to wildlife as Western White Clematis, and it is also toxic.

In addition to serving as a food source for wildlife, native vines often provide shelter for many animals and nesting areas for birds. Combined with their ability to add texture, color, and height, vines are indispensable in a wildlife-friendly landscape.

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