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Friday - December 17, 2010

From: Washington, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Deer Resistant
Title: Rattan vine for deer in Washington County, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


My property in Washington County has a lot of very old rattan vine, much of which is 3" in diameter. All of the leaf and berry production on these vines is well over 50' above the ground. I manage my property for white-tail deer and have been working extensively on brush management (mostly clearing yaupon and old greenbrier thickets) in some of these areas where the rattan vine grows. I have pulled some of the smaller vines down to within reach of the deer and the leaves have been quickly consumed. Can I prune the old large vines back to where the growth will be at a lower level and therefore of benefit to the deer? And if so, when is the best time to prune?


Berchemia scandens (rattan-vine) is native to your area in Washington County. You must have some real whoppers there, with 3" diameter vines. Our webpage on this plant says the vines can reach "up to" 1" in diameter. The webpage also says it is beneficial to wildlife, but does not specifically mention deer. However, the height you are quoting is correct, over 50' up in the trees. This vine requires shade or part shade, and yet it seems to be looking for sunlight, climbing up in the trees like that. Since the vine is deciduous, and therefore probably has nothing for the deer right now, our best guess is that you need to cut those vines way back, like down to 3' or so above the ground. They will put out new leaves and blooms, because all plants' Prime Directive is to survive and reproduce. This will get the new growth down to where the deer can reach them, and no doubt they will dine on the fresh sprouts in the spring.

From Louisiana Ecosystems, here is some more information on the rattan vine. A couple of the sites we looked at mention that the berries were poisonous, but were widely eaten by birds, and the vine was browsed by deer. You might also be interested in this Dave's Garden Forum negative comments about the invasiveness of the vine. If you are truly interested in providing browse for the deer, you are going to have to trim back the vines, probably every year, to keep the leaves within reach of the deer.


From the Image Gallery

Alabama supple-jack
Berchemia scandens

Alabama supple-jack
Berchemia scandens

Alabama supple-jack
Berchemia scandens

Alabama supple-jack
Berchemia scandens

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