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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.

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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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Monday - July 02, 2012

From: Seguin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Vines
Title: Cow-itch vine name from Seguin TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

How did Cow-Itch Vine (Cissus incisa / Cissus trifoliata) get its name?

ANSWER:

There are actually several vines native to Texas that are sometimes called "cow-itch vine:

Campsis radicans (Trumpet creeper) - Bignoniaceae (trumpet vine family) 

Cissus trifoliata (Cow-itch vine) - Vitaceae (grape) family. We believe Cissus incisa  is a synonym, and is actually the same plant. A previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer on this plant

From a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer, we learned that Ampelopsis arborea (Peppervine)  - Vitaceae (grape) family also has the "cow-itch" common name.

Generally, those  vines have some feature of the leaves and stems that produce itching in anyone susceptible to it. We suspect they are called that because, in addition to causing the irritation, they are much more irritating as invasive vines that nearly can't be gotten rid of. 

Closely related to  Campsis radicans (Trumpet creeper) is the:

Bignonia capreolata (Crossvine) - Bignoniaceae (trumpet vine family). This certainly seems to have a better reputation for a garden plant, including attracting hummingbirds. Its leaves and stems may also cause irritation, but not an invasives irritation.

The name  "cow itch vines" probably evolved because we couldn't publish what they were really being called. You can follow each plant link to learn more about them.

 

From the Image Gallery


Cow-itch vine
Cissus trifoliata

Trumpet creeper
Campsis radicans

Crossvine
Bignonia capreolata

Peppervine
Nekemias arborea

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