En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

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

QUESTION:

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!!

ANSWER:

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

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Different shades of green in Taxodium distichum (bald cypress)
June 05, 2008 - I have two bald cypress trees 50 feet apart, but there was very different soil in the two holes. One was a clayey soil and the other was much more the Austin limestone soil. The trees are about 2 ye...
view the full question and answer

Native lawn replacement for shady areas in Austin
September 11, 2013 - Our front lawn was totally destroyed this summer during some remodeling construction. I am interested in replacing it with native grasses, but we have several oak trees that keep the area fairly shady...
view the full question and answer

Fast growing shade trees safe for livestock in pasture in Nashville GA
May 13, 2010 - I would like a list of fast growing shade trees that are safe for cows and horses in a pasture.
view the full question and answer

Plants for narrow moist shade in Dallas
October 05, 2009 - We are looking for plants in a narrow strip next to our house. It is a shady area that holds a lot of water. We would love plants that would help take water out of the soil. Do you have any suggest...
view the full question and answer

Native Plants for Shaded North Slope in Ohio
January 03, 2013 - I have a shaded north hillside which needs erosion control plants. Mostly moss and very thin grass grows there now. Please help!
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center