Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Butterfly plants from Austin TX
December 17, 2012 - I have a butterfly garden in the front part of the house facing the south side. However it is also mostly under a few Oak trees that cast shadow over half of the front yard starting early afternoon. ...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for shade in San Antonio
March 21, 2008 - I have a large red oak tree in the front yard. It is keeping any sun except filtered underneath. Faces n/w and in san antonio. I need a ground cover that is drought tolerant and likes the shade and h...
view the full question and answer

Disagreement with HOA on raised beds placed beneath mature oak from Tequesta FL
April 05, 2014 - I have mature 30 year old oak trees on my property and I put a raised bed under each with very good soil and I used pavers for retaining the soil about about 1.5 ft high. I planted a perennial begonia...
view the full question and answer

Native shade-loving container plant for Austin
May 02, 2009 - What is a good plant that works well in a container, is shade-loving and produces some blooms?
view the full question and answer

Erosion Control for Shady Ditches
January 24, 2013 - What plants can you recommend for erosion control along shady ditches in Northwest Indiana?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.