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

Native plants for memorial garden in Michigan
March 04, 2008 - I want to start a memorial garden for my daughter. I live in northern Michigan and the area has very tall white pines we have pruned them up about 15' so the area does get partial sun. Which plants w...
view the full question and answer

Pruning Bittersweet Vine
December 29, 2009 - I am interested in learning how to prune my American bittersweet. The vine has enjoyed it's second summer in my backyard. I would like learn how to prune it, not only for size, but to help keep the...
view the full question and answer

California Vine for Privacy Screening
November 06, 2014 - I have a two story house going up behind my back yard. I would like to plant a climbing vine with non-invasive roots to provide privacy. I live in Los Angeles and the trellis would receive almost full...
view the full question and answer

Aggressive vine with purple flowers in South Carolina
September 12, 2014 - Found an aggressive climbing vine with purple flowers in out vegetable garden. This garden was cleaned and new dirt, mulch and manure was put in in the spring. It was raked out after the infusion of d...
view the full question and answer

Poison Ivy in Semi-wetland Massachusetts
June 27, 2013 - You answered this question for Tennessee, but I would like an answer for a Massachusetts semi-wetlands area: What can I plant to discourage poison ivy, or at least make it very clear that it is poison...
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 | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center