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Momordica charantia (bitter melon), a climbing plant "A Momordica charantia- bitter guard plant".jpg
Momordica charantia (bitter melon), a climbing plant
A tendril Vine.jpg
A tendril

A vine (from Latin vīnea  ' grapevine , vineyard '; from vīnum  'wine') is any plant with a growth habit of trailing or scandent (that is, climbing) stems, lianas, or runners. The word vine can also refer to such stems or runners themselves, for instance, when used in wicker work. [1] [2]


In parts of the world, including the British Isles, the term "vine" usually applies exclusively to grapevines ( Vitis ), [3] while the term "climber" is used for all climbing plants. [4]

Growth forms

Convolvulus vine twining around a steel fixed ladder Vine-1.jpg
Convolvulus vine twining around a steel fixed ladder
Grapevine covering a chimney Schornstein Kletterpflanze Meidling.jpg
Grapevine covering a chimney

Certain plants always grow as vines, while a few grow as vines only part of the time. For instance, poison ivy and bittersweet can grow as low shrubs when support is not available, but will become vines when support is available. [5]

A vine displays a growth form based on very long stems. This has two purposes. A vine may use rock exposures, other plants, or other supports for growth rather than investing energy in a lot of supportive tissue, enabling the plant to reach sunlight with a minimum investment of energy. This has been a highly successful growth form for plants such as kudzu and Japanese honeysuckle, both of which are invasive exotics in parts of North America. There are some tropical vines that develop skototropism, and grow away from the light, a type of negative phototropism. Growth away from light allows the vine to reach a tree trunk, which it can then climb to brighter regions. [6]

The vine growth form may also enable plants to colonize large areas quickly, even without climbing high. This is the case with periwinkle and ground ivy. It is also an adaptation to life in areas where small patches of fertile soil are adjacent to exposed areas with more sunlight but little or no soil. A vine can root in the soil but have most of its leaves in the brighter, exposed area, getting the best of both environments.

The evolution of a climbing habit has been implicated as a key innovation associated with the evolutionary success and diversification of a number of taxonomic groups of plants. [7] It has evolved independently in several plant families, using many different climbing methods, [8] such as:

The climbing fetterbush ( Pieris phillyreifolia ) is a woody shrub-vine which climbs without clinging roots, tendrils, or thorns. It directs its stem into a crevice in the bark of fibrous barked trees (such as bald cypress) where the stem adopts a flattened profile and grows up the tree underneath the host tree's outer bark. The fetterbush then sends out branches that emerge near the top of the tree. [9]

Most vines are flowering plants. These may be divided into woody vines or lianas, such as akebia wisteria, kiwifruit, and common ivy, and herbaceous (nonwoody) vines, such as morning glory.

One odd group of vining plants is the fern genus Lygodium, called climbing ferns. [10] The stem does not climb, but rather the fronds (leaves) do. The fronds unroll from the tip, and theoretically never stop growing; they can form thickets as they unroll over other plants, rockfaces, and fences.

L: A left-handed bine grows in an anticlockwise direction (viewed from the point of view of the plant: S-twist).
R: A right-handed bine grows in a clockwise direction. (Z-twist) Helix diagram-de.png
L: A left-handed bine grows in an anticlockwise direction (viewed from the point of view of the plant: S-twist).
R: A right-handed bine grows in a clockwise direction. (Z-twist)

Twining vines

Fockea edulis 07 ies.jpg
Twining vine / bine ( Fockea edulis )
Brunnichia ovata.jpg
Tendril-supported vine ( Brunnichia ovata )

A twining vine, also known as a bine, is one that climbs by its shoots growing in a helix, in contrast to vines that climb using tendrils or suckers. Many bines have rough stems or downward-pointing bristles to aid their grip. Hops (used in flavoring beer) are a commercially important example of a bine. [13] [14]

The direction of rotation of the shoot tip during climbing is autonomous and does not (as sometimes imagined) derive from the shoot's following the sun around the sky – the direction of twist does not therefore depend upon which side of the equator the plant is growing on. This is shown by the fact that some bines always twine clockwise, including runner bean ( Phaseolus coccineus ) and bindweed ( Convolvulus species), while others twine anticlockwise, including black bryony ( Dioscorea communis ) and climbing honeysuckles ( Lonicera species). The contrasting rotations of bindweed and honeysuckle was the theme of the satirical song "Misalliance", written and sung by Michael Flanders and Donald Swann (but the lyrics confuse the direction of twining, describing honeysuckle as right-handed and bindweed as left-handed). [15]

Horticultural climbing plants

The term "vine" also applies to cucurbitaceae like cucumbers where botanists refer to creeping vines; in commercial agriculture the natural tendency of coiling tendrils to attach themselves to pre-existing structures or espaliers is optimized by the installation of trellis netting.

Gardeners can use the tendency of climbing plants to grow quickly. If a plant display is wanted quickly, a climber can achieve this. Climbers can be trained over walls, pergolas, fences, etc. Climbers can be grown over other plants to provide additional attraction. Artificial support can also be provided. Some climbers climb by themselves; others need work, such as tying them in and training them.

Scientific description

Vines widely differ in size, form and evolutionary origin. Darwin classified climbing groups based on their climbing method. He classified five classes of vines – twining plants, leaf climbers, tendril bearers, root climbers and hook climbers.

Vines are unique in that they have multiple evolutionary origins. They usually reside in tropical locations and have the unique ability to climb. Vines are able to grow in both deep shade and full sun due to their uniquely wide range of phenotypic plasticity. This climbing action prevents shading by neighbors and allows the vine to grow out of reach of herbivores. [16] The environment where a vine can grow successfully is determined by the climbing mechanism of a vine and how far it can spread across supports. There are many theories supporting the idea that photosynthetic responses are closely related to climbing mechanisms.

A large Apios vine on the street in Sochi, Russia Bigvine.jpg
A large Apios vine on the street in Sochi, Russia

Temperate twining vines, which twist tightly around supports, are typically poorly adapted for climbing beneath closed canopies due to their smaller support diameter and shade intolerance. In contrast, tendril vines usually grow on the forest floor and onto trees until they reach the surface of the canopy, suggesting that they have greater physiological plasticity. [17] It has also been suggested that twining vines' revolving growth is mediated by changes in turgor pressure mediated by volume changes in the epidermal cells of the bending zone. [18]

Climbing vines can take on many unique characteristics in response to changes in their environments. Climbing vines can induce chemical defenses and modify their biomass allocation in response to herbivores. In particular, the twisting vine Convolvulus arvensis increases its twining in response to herbivore-associated leaf damage, which may lead to reduced future herbivory. [19] Additionally, the tendrils of perennial vine Cayratia japonica are more likely to coil around nearby plants of another species than nearby plants of the same species in natural and experimental settings. This ability, which has only been previously documented in roots, demonstrates the vine's ability to distinguish whether another plant is of the same species as itself or a different one.

In tendrilled vines, the tendrils are highly sensitive to touch and the coiling action is mediated by the hormones octadecanoids, jasmonates and indole-3-acetic acid. The touch stimulus and hormones may interact via volatile compounds or internal oscillation patterns. [20] Research has found the presence of ion translocating ATPases in the Bryonia dioica species of plants, which has implications for a possible ion mediation tendril curling mechanism. In response to a touch stimulus, vanadate sensitive K+, Mg2+ ATPase and a Ca2+ translocating ATPase rapidly increase their activity. This increases transmembrane ion fluxes that appear to be involved in the early stages of tendril coiling. [21]

Example vine taxa

Canary Creeper trailing on a trellis. Senecio tamoides 13.jpg
Canary Creeper trailing on a trellis.
Ficus pumila's vigorous wall growth Ficus pumila.jpg
Ficus pumila's vigorous wall growth
Spring growth of Virginia Creeper Virginiacreepertendril.jpg
Spring growth of Virginia Creeper
Scrambling habit of Climbing groundsel. Senecioangulatus.jpg
Scrambling habit of Climbing groundsel.
Confederate jasmine with flowers Trachelospermum jasminoides HRM1.jpg
Confederate jasmine with flowers
Bower vine's showy flowers Pandorea jasminoides87.jpg
Bower vine's showy flowers
Mandevilla trailing on trellis Dipladenia sanderi.JPG
Mandevilla trailing on trellis
Oceanblue morning glory Ipomoea indica (14540443083).jpg
Oceanblue morning glory
German ivy creeping on ground Delairea odorata - Copenhagen Botanical Garden - DSC08019.JPG
German ivy creeping on ground

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Toxicodendron radicans</i> Species of plant

Toxicodendron radicans, commonly known as eastern poison ivy or poison ivy, is an allergenic flowering plant that occurs in Asia and eastern North America. The species is well known for causing urushiol-induced contact dermatitis, an itchy, irritating, and sometimes painful rash, in most people who touch it. The rash is caused by urushiol, a clear liquid compound in the plant's sap. The species is variable in its appearance and habit, and despite its common name, it is not a true ivy (Hedera), but rather a member of the cashew and pistachio family (Anacardiaceae). T. radicans is commonly eaten by many animals and the seeds are consumed by birds, but poison ivy is most often thought of as an unwelcome weed. It is a different species from western poison ivy, T. rydbergii, which has similar effects.

<i>Campsis radicans</i> Species of vine

Campsis radicans, the trumpet vine, yellow trumpet vine, or trumpet creeper, is a species of flowering plant in the family Bignoniaceae, native to eastern North America, and naturalized elsewhere. Growing to 10 metres, it is a vigorous, deciduous woody vine, notable for its showy trumpet-shaped flowers. It inhabits woodlands and riverbanks, and is also a popular garden plant.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tendril</span> Specialisation of plant parts used to climb or bind

In botany, a tendril is a specialized stem, leaf or petiole with a threadlike shape used by climbing plants for support and attachment, as well as cellular invasion by parasitic plants such as Cuscuta. There are many plants that have tendrils; including sweet peas, passionflower, grapes and the Chilean glory-flower. Tendrils respond to touch and to chemical factors by curling, twining, or adhering to suitable structures or hosts. Tendrils vary greatly in size from a few centimeters up to 27 inches for Nepenthes harryana The chestnut vine can have tendrils up to 20.5 inches in length. Normally there is only one simple or branched tendril at each node, but the aardvark cucumber can have as many as eight.

<i>Asparagus</i> (genus) Genus of flowering plants

Asparagus is a genus of flowering plants in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Asparagoideae. It comprises up to 300 species. Most are evergreen long-lived perennial plants growing from the understory as lianas, bushes or climbing plants. The best-known species is the edible Asparagus officinalis, commonly referred to as just asparagus. Some other members of the genus, such as Asparagus densiflorus, are grown as ornamental plants.

<i>Lonicera periclymenum</i> Species of plant

Lonicera periclymenum, common names honeysuckle, common honeysuckle, European honeysuckle, or woodbine, is a species of flowering plant in the family Caprifoliaceae native to much of Europe, North Africa, Turkey and the Caucasus. It is found as far north as southern Norway, Sweden and Finland.

<i>Parthenocissus quinquefolia</i> Species of flowering plant

Parthenocissus quinquefolia, known as Virginia creeper, Victoria creeper, five-leaved ivy, or five-finger, is a species of flowering vine in the grape family, Vitaceae. It is native to eastern and central North America, from southeastern Canada and the eastern United States west to Manitoba and Utah, and south to eastern Mexico and Guatemala.

<i>Fallopia convolvulus</i> Species of flowering plant in the knotweed family Polygonaceae

Fallopia convolvulus, the black-bindweed or wild buckwheat, is a fast-growing annual flowering plant in the family Polygonaceae native throughout Europe, Asia and northern Africa.

<i>Parthenocissus tricuspidata</i> Species of grapevine

Parthenocissus tricuspidata is a flowering plant in the grape family (Vitaceae) native to eastern Asia in Korea, Japan, and northern and eastern China. Although unrelated to true ivy, it is commonly known as Boston ivy, grape ivy, and Japanese ivy, and also as Japanese creeper, and by the name woodbine.

<i>Parthenocissus</i> Genus of grapevines

Parthenocissus, is a genus of tendril climbing plants in the grape family, Vitaceae. It contains about 12 species native to the Himalayas, eastern Asia and North America. Several are grown for ornamental use, notably P. henryana, P. quinquefolia and P. tricuspidata.

<i>Smilax rotundifolia</i> Species of plant

Smilax rotundifolia, also known as roundleaf greenbrier or common greenbrier, is a woody vine native to the southeastern and eastern United States and eastern Canada. It is a common and conspicuous part of the natural forest ecosystems in much of its native range. The leaves are glossy green, petioled, alternate, and circular to heart-shaped. They are generally 5–13 cm long. Common greenbrier climbs other plants using green tendrils growing out of the petioles.

<i>Parthenocissus inserta</i> Species of vine

Parthenocissus inserta, also known as thicket creeper, false Virginia creeper, woodbine, or grape woodbine, is a woody vine native to North America, in southeastern Canada and a large area of the United States, from Maine west to Montana and south to New Jersey and Missouri in the east, and Texas to Arizona in the west. It is present in California, but it may be an introduced species that far west. It is introduced in Europe.

<i>Cobaea scandens</i> Species of vine

Cobaea scandens, the cup-and-saucer vine, cathedral bells, Mexican ivy, or monastery bells, is a species of flowering plant in the phlox family Polemoniaceae. It is native to Mexico, with isolated sightings elsewhere in tropical central and South America.

<i>Senecio tamoides</i> Species of vine

Senecio tamoides, also known as Canary creeper, false grapevine, and parlor ivy, is a climbing member of the genus Senecio of the family Asteraceae that is native to Southern Africa. It is used as an ornamental plant for its showy yellow, daisy-like flowers in late autumn through to winter.

<i>Parthenocissus henryana</i> Species of vine

Parthenocissus henryana is a species of flowering plant in the vine family Vitaceae, native to China.

<i>Rhoicissus tomentosa</i> Species of grapevine

Rhoicissus tomentosa is a vigorous, evergreen vine that is indigenous to the afro-montane forests of southern Africa. It is increasingly popular as an ornamental creeper in gardens, and it has a wide range of uses in traditional medicine.

<i>Pityopsis ruthii</i>

Pityopsis ruthii is a rare species of flowering plant in the family Asteraceae known by the common name Ruth's golden aster. It is endemic to the US state of Tennessee, where it is known only from Polk County. It is threatened by the modification of its habitat. It is a federally listed endangered species.

<i>Ripogonum scandens</i> Species of flowering plant

Ripogonum scandens, is a common rainforest vine native to New Zealand. It can also grow in areas of swamp.

<i>Dolichandra unguis-cati</i> Species of flowering plant

Dolichandra unguis-cati, commonly known as cat's claw creeper, funnel creeper, or cat's claw trumpet, is a rapidly growing climbing vine belonging to the family Bignoniaceae. It affects all plant layers of the forest ecosystem spreading rapidly both vertically and horizontally.

<i>Thunbergia gregorii</i> Species of flowering plant

Thunbergia gregorii, commonly known as orange clockvine or orange trumpet vine, is a herbaceous perennial climbing plant species in the family Acanthaceae, native to East Africa and sometimes cultivated as an ornamental vine. The bright, pure all-orange flowers distinguish it from the related black-eyed Susan vine.

<i>Ampelopsis glandulosa</i> Species of vine

Ampelopsis glandulosa, with common names creeper, porcelain berry, Amur peppervine, and wild grape, is an ornamental plant, native to temperate areas of Asia including China, Japan, India, Nepal, Myanmar, Vietnam, and the Philippines. It is generally similar to, and potentially confused with, grape species and other Ampelopsis species.


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  10. "Japanese climbing fern". Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Retrieved 6 March 2023.
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  13. bine at Merriam-Webster
  14. Cone Heads at Willamette Week
  15. Misalliance
  16. Gianoli, Ernesto; Molina-Montenegro, Marco A. (2005). "Leaf Damage Induces Twining in a Climbing Plant". The New Phytologist. 167 (2): 385–90. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2005.01484.x . JSTOR   3694507. PMID   15998392.
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  19. Molina-Montenegro, Marco A.; Gianoli, Ernesto; Becerra, José (2007). "Interactive Effects of Leaf Damage, Light Intensity and Support Availability on Chemical Defenses and Morphology of a Twining Vine". Journal of Chemical Ecology. 33 (1): 95–103. Bibcode:2007JCEco..33...95G. doi:10.1007/s10886-006-9215-8. PMID   17111219. S2CID   27419071.
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