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

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

I need an evergreen vine to hide an ugly fence.
February 24, 2009 - I am looking to find a vine that will be on my south facing fence. I would like it to be evergreen as to hide my ugly fence.
view the full question and answer

Which Aristolochia species are toxic to pipevine swallowtail larvae
May 27, 2009 - In a May 30, 2008 question regarding the toxicity of certain Aristolochia species to pipevine swallowtail larvae, I had heard the same from at a talk from the curator of the Cockrell Butterfly Center ...
view the full question and answer

Vine with red berries in North Carolina
November 04, 2011 - I found a plant/ vine pink teardrop with red berries in the Pusgah Forest in North Carolina and no on knows the name of it. I have a photo, can you help?
view the full question and answer

Identification of vine with 4-petaled purple flower
May 30, 2012 - Does anybody know what vine has a purple four petaled flower with small bulb in middle??
view the full question and answer

Flowers for monarch butterflies in Bastrop, Gonzales and Travis Counties of Texas
March 05, 2013 - Hi Mr./s. Smarty Plants, What are some flowers that grow naturally on a Bastrop, Travis, or Gonzales county riverside that monarch butterflies commonly feed on? Thank you
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 | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center