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

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Friday - May 20, 2011

From: Arlington, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Native invasives question from Arlington MA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

When I searched your website for creepers in Massachusetts, I found the following recommendations: Campsis radicans and Parthenocissus quinquefolia. But in response to a reader's question, you called Campsis radicans an "invasive" plant. Does that mean that the website's recommendations include invasive and noninvasive plants? If so, how I screen your recommendations to identify native, non-invasive species?

ANSWER:

Every plant on our website is native to North America. Some natives, as well as non-natives, can be invasive, but when an invasive native appears to be the plant the person wants or can use, we always warn that it can be invasive. Our Recommended Species section for Massachusetts does not include Campsis radicans (Trumpet creeper), but it does appear in our Native Plant Database, with this caution:

"Native to eastern North America as far north as New York and Ontario, this vine is often cultivated for its attractive, reddish orange flowers and can escape cultivation, sometimes colonizing so densely it seems a nuisance, particularly in the southeast, where its invasive qualities have earned it the names Hellvine and Devils Shoestring. Its rapid colonization by suckers and layering makes it useful for erosion control, however, and its magnificent flowers never fail to attract Ruby-throated Hummingbirds within its range. Adapted to eastern forests, Trumpet creeper grows tall with support. It climbs by means of aerial rootlets, which, like English Ivy, can damage wood, stone, and brick. To keep it in check, plant it near concrete or an area that you can mow; mowing down the suckers will discourage them. Fairly drought tolerant within its range. Blooms most in full sun."

We have listed as many plants native to North America as we can in our database, but that does not mean we recommend every one of them. Toxicodendron radicans (Eastern poison ivy) is listed there also as being native to Massachusetts, but is certainly not recommended. Because Massachusetts is in a colder USDA Hardiness Zone, that alone should control Campsis radicans (Trumpet creeper) and avoid it being invasive, but in the longer warm seasons of the Southeast, it certainly could be.

In contrast, Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper) is listed in our Recommended Species for Massachusetts. This information on our webpage for this plant includes this paragraph:

"Virginia Creeper can be used as a climbing vine or ground cover, its leaves carpeting any surface in luxuriant green before turning brilliant colors in the fall. Its tendrils end in adhesive-like tips, giving this vine the ability to cement itself to walls and therefore need no support. The presence of adhesive tips instead of penetrating rootlets also means it doesnt damage buildings the way some vines do. It is one of the earliest vines to color in the fall. A vigorous grower, it tolerates most soils and climatic conditions."

So you see, just because we list a plant, and note that it is native to a certain area, certainly does not mean in every case that we are recommending it, but that we try to provide accurate information on every native plant that might be considered. Different soils, climates, rainfall and season length affect every plant, and determines whether that plant will do well or poorly in a specific area.

 

From the Image Gallery


Trumpet creeper
Campsis radicans

Eastern poison ivy
Toxicodendron radicans

Virginia creeper
Parthenocissus quinquefolia

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