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Thursday - April 17, 2014

From: Haverhill, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Shade Tolerant, Vines
Title: Vine to cover fence from Haverhill MA
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Hello, I'm looking for a fast growing vine to cover a chain link fence. The area is sunny half of the day. I have 2 small children so I don't want something that attracts bees or could be dangerous to touch. I don't care about flowering although that would be nice, mostly looking for coverage, safety and something that doesn't require too much attention and care! Please help!!


The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is committed to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which those plants will be grown; in your case, Essex County, on the northeastern border of the state. We will go to our Native Plant Database, scroll down the page to the "Combination Search and, using the selection list on the right-hand side of that page, choose Massachusetts, vine for HABIT and part shade (2 to 6 hours a day of sun) under LIGHT REQUIREMENTS and click on NARROW YOUR CHOICE. To begin with your request for child safe plants: The following vines native to Massachusetts all had this or a similar warning on their webpages.

"Warning: POISONOUS PARTS: All parts. Severe pain in mouth if eaten; skin irritation if touched or inhaled. Symptoms include burning sensation of mouth and mouth ulcers; skin redness and burning sensation."

Celastrus scandens (American bittersweet)

Clematis occidentalis (Western blue virginsbower)

Clematis occidentalis var. occidentalis (Purple clematis)

Clematis virginiana (Devil's darning needles)

Menispermum canadense (Common moonseed)

Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)

Toxicodendron radicans (Eastern poison ivy)

Why so many vines have poisonous parts is a mystery to us, and an eye-opener. Here are the native Massachusetts vines without similar warnings:

Lonicera sempervirens (Coral honeysuckle)

Wisteria frutescens (American wisteria)

Vitis riparia (Riverbank grape)

You might not be too pleased with the last two as they could be messy in your yard. On the webpage for Lonicera sempervirens (Coral honeysuckle) is this statement:

"Flowers attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. Fruits attract quail, Purple Finch, Goldfinch, Hermit Thrush, American Robin."

Under the circumstances, you might choose to use small shrubs or tall grasses to disguise the fence, at least until your children are older.


From the Image Gallery

Coral honeysuckle
Lonicera sempervirens

American wisteria
Wisteria frutescens

Riverbank grape
Vitis riparia

American bittersweet
Celastrus scandens

Western blue virginsbower
Clematis occidentalis

Purple clematis
Clematis occidentalis var. occidentalis

Devil's darning needles
Clematis virginiana

Common moonseed
Menispermum canadense

Virginia creeper
Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Eastern poison ivy
Toxicodendron radicans

Riverbank grape
Vitis riparia

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