I spent this morning battling bindweed and trellising pea plants. I work on a farm. If you’ve spent anytime working on a farm, you’re probably familiar with these tasks. Manual labor gives one ample time to think, and today I was thinking about all the vines on farms. There are many; crop plants like peas, beans, cucumbers, squash and tomatoes, as well as weed plants like bindweed, honeysuckle and poison ivy.
A vine is a plant with trailing or climbing shoots. To grow upwards the shoots, or runners, need supportive help. Support is important, and expensive, for a plant. Think of how much energy it takes for a tree to make and then maintain its trunk in an upright position! Vines don’t invest energy in supporting themselves, which means they have to find another support system. This means vines have more resources to spend on other endeavors, like growing and spreading out quickly. Think of kudzu in southern states, or ground ivy.
The ability to climb and attach to other structures evolved independently in a few plant families using different methods. The four types of vines depicted above are common in the temperate, Northeastern climate. Are there other types of vines where you live?