En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - February 23, 2010

From: Boston, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Vines
Title: Prickly vine for fire escape in Boston
Answered by: Barbara Medford and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I live in Boston area and would like to plant a prickly vine that will grow on my fire escape. What do you recommend?

ANSWER:

The first thing we recommend is that you contact your Fire Department, landlord or homeowner's association to find out if it is legal to plant anything on your fire escape. We went to the website for the Boston Fire Department and found this page on Fire Department Questions and Comments. There are a number of contact numbers on that page; if the first one can't answer your question, they can probably tell you who could. The thing is, the whole point of a fire escape is easy access and escape for the occupants of the building. A vine, including a prickly vine, that might trip or hurt people who needed to move quickly and safely would definitely not be a good use of plants.

Assuming (and we are not doing that) you get approvals from all the above authorities, you have another set of problems to deal with, including the location of dirt. Even if your fire escape sits above an area of dirt instead of sidewalk, it is going to be poor, compacted, possibly polluted dirt, and the vine would have to be supported up to the first level of the escape. If you chose to put a pot with potting soil in it, it would be heavy, difficult to transport and, once again, a possible safety hazard. 

Final set of problems: what prickly vine would live in an exposed situation in Boston, which is in USDA Cold Hardiness Zone 6a, with annual average minimum temperatures of -10 to -5 deg. F. There were none following those specifications in our Recommended Species list for Massachusetts, but in our Plant Database, we found some roses that come close.

Only one is considered an actual climbing rose, but the others have plenty of prickles and are fairly tall.  Rosa acicularis (prickly rose) and Rosa arkansana (prairie rose) are examples of moderately tall roses native to Massachusetts with prickly branches but not really climbing vines.

Rosa setigera (climbing rose) - climbing branches 6 to 15 ft. long, scattered, straight prickles along stem, deciduous, blooms white, pink in May, low water use, sun, part shade or shade

Rosa palustris (swamp rose) - 6 to 8 ft. tall, numerous thorny stems, medium water use, sun, part shade or shade

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Rosa setigera

Rosa setigera

Rosa palustris

Rosa palustris

 

 

More Vines Questions

Distinguishing non-native Wisteria from Austin
June 25, 2012 - How do I distinguish a native wisteria from a non-native wisteria?
view the full question and answer

Is Bignonia capreolata (Crossvine) known to cause skin irritation
July 23, 2013 - Is Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata L.) known to cause a rash? We are trying to identify the source of a rash-after-gardening, and have not seen any of the big three (poison ivy, poison oak, poison suma...
view the full question and answer

Purchase source of Coral honeysuckle from New Boston TX
April 21, 2012 - I have been unable to find a supplier in the listings on your website for Lonicera Sempervirens. Many of them had a variety of different plants listed under this name but none were the 20' species. ...
view the full question and answer

Can a mustang grape and an oak coexist in Austin
November 04, 2009 - I have a healthy mustang grape vine growing on an oak in my yard. While the vine provides plenty of good food and a pleasant environment for many birds throughout the year, I feel it is overtaking the...
view the full question and answer

Care of Passiflora incarnata or Passiflora coccinea
July 04, 2007 - Hi- I have two passionflowers, one red, one purple. I live in upstate NY. They grow very well up onto trellises, however, they have stopped producing flowers. Both are planted in pots (fairly large)...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center