Harmful Vines That Kill Trees: Things You Need To Know

Trees are a beautiful and natural part of our world but sometimes vines destroy them. Some vines can girdle a tree so tightly that they literally strangle it, preventing it from receiving nutrition. Other vines prevent the sun from reaching the tree’s leaves, stopping photosynthesis and ultimately killing the trees. But, did you know where these invasive vines originally came from?

Farmers in the United States were introduced to this semi-woody vine tree killer called Kudzu as a potential feed crop and erosion control. Before individuals discovered it had taken over and suffocated their desired flora, they had been urged to plant it. It now grows in zones 5 to 10 and is common in the Southeast of the United States.

The invasive vines can swiftly spread from suburban yards to any open area with sufficient light and ascend toward the sun.

Therefore, they may be something that you as gardeners should be aware of. If you are interested in the types of vines that kill trees, its impacts, and related stuff, let’s take a look at insightful points we’ve gathered below!

What Are The Invasive Vines Called?

When you talk about invasive vines, you may refer to the most dangerous tree killers called Kudzu. Kudzu can be mistaken for other quickly spreading vines like Poison Ivy or Creeper. In fact, you can distinguish Kudzu easily from any of these vine species upon closer inspection due to the presence of trifoliate leaves. Kudzu also has young stems that are heavily golden pubescent.

These vines may easily spread out in all directions and grow quickly, which makes them invasive. The environment it grows in and how it grows naturally determine whether a plant is invasive or not.

1. What Are Invasive Vines?

Invasive plants are harmful non-native trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants that are dispersed by international trade, travel by people and animals, and gardening. And, vines can have invasive behavior. They overrun forests and obstruct the growth of native plants, which can have detrimental effects on native species, native vegetation, and ecosystem functioning.

Moreover, invasive vines usually grow swiftly out of control. They spread through runners, rhizomes and by vines that root at the nodes to generate new plants. In addition, Kudzu grows at a rate of one foot per day after it is established, and its mature vines can reach a length of 100 feet.

2. Types Of Invasive Vines

In general, you should understand 10 types of invasive vines that can damage trees in your garden. We don’t want your garden to be dominated by vines, so knowing the types is the first step of introduction. Let’s take a look at the following points to give you better understanding!

Kudzu (Pueraria Montana var. lobata)

Known as the most invasive vine, kudzu easily overtakes trees and can kill them. As they climb the tree, they nearly adhere to the bark of their hosts, severely shadowing the tree.

Algerian Ivy (Hedera Algeriensis)

In USDA hardiness zones 7 through 11, Algerian Ivy is a common vine that may easily take over your garden if given the chance. The roots have the ability to cling to both tree trunks and building frames.

Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria Sinensis)

Despite its beauty, it is a vine that choke out trees easily. The ability of Chinese Wisteria to create new roots at each node and everywhere it contacts the ground allows it to grow more widely.

English Ivy (Hedera Helix)

Like Algerian ivy, English Ivy can be used as ground vines to cover in shaded areas. However, the fruit may be poisonous to humans.

Five Leaf Akebia (Akebia Quinata)

The five-leaf akebia, also known as the chocolate vine, has lovely blooms and fruit. But, if you are not careful, it will take over your garden.

Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera Japonica)

The vanilla-scented blossoms are stunning and attract hummingbirds and bees to your garden. However, you must genuinely adore Japanese Honeysuckle because the vine spreads across your entire yard and is challenging to entirely eradicate.

Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus Orbiculatus)

This vine encircles trees and may ultimately lead to their extinction. But some grow it in order to use the eye-catching berries in dried arrangements. Sometimes, it might develop into a shrub.

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron Radicans)

In addition to being very invasive, Poison Ivy, which are native vines in Virginia, are hazardous to many plants. These poisonous vines also have a harmful ingredient called urushiol.

Porcelain Berries (Ampelopsis Brevipedunculata)

These berries are a lovely plant for fall color because of their distinctive purple and turquoise hues. In USDA zones 4 to 8, they are quite invasive and simple to spread.

Winter Creeper (Euonymus Fortunei)

It is frequently utilized as a groundcover in landscapes since it is easily creep. Both the juvenile and mature versions of this plant resemble ivy, as does its propensity to use rootlets to scale walls and trunks.

3. What Damage Does Invasive Vines Cause?

Invasive vines have affected trees and many aspects in our life, including water soil issue, biodiversity, tree cover, fire risk and more. Here are some impacts that are caused by invasive vines we have compiled just for you!

Reducing Species Diversity

Herbs, shrubs, and trees come in a diversity in a healthy plant community. However, invasive vines that kill trees may reduce growth of plant species as biological pollution. Rapidly dispersing invasive plant species can displace native plants, stunt the growth of native plants, and establish monocultures.

Fire Risk

In fact, invading plant monocultures produce fuel for wildfires. Clematis or ivy vines can climb trees and act as a conduit for fire, allowing it to spread to the tree canopy, where it is more difficult to put out and more likely to endanger neighboring structures.

Tree Cover

Invasive vines that kill trees also can diminish the quantity of forest cover. They can stop trees from growing and getting established, forcing them to fall over early, or slowing down their growth.

Erosion and Flooding

There is relatively little root structure to hold the soils together when invasive vines that kill trees like ivy or clematis predominate the groundcover. They reduce the amount of cover and shade along streams, which raises stream temperatures and contributes to erosion and flooding.

4. How Long Do Invasive Vines Could Kill Trees?

The time it takes for an invasive vine such as Kudzu to kill a tree depends on the type of growing conditions and the size of the tree itself. This invasive vine may compete with and kill everything from grasses to mature trees by growing up to 12 inches each day, crowding and shadowing them.

In addition, other invasive vines like English Ivy may also kill trees if you are not taking care of them properly. Depending on the vine types and the growth rate, they can also kill your trees slowly, not as fast as Kudzu.

What Is The Purpose of Vines Climbing On Trees?

The vine holds a special position among plants, especially trees. They employ any adjacent structure to guide them upward as they grab hold with either tendrils or rootlets instead of relying on their own fiber to give support.

Besides, climbing plants have several reasons below that benefit themselves to survive.

1. Take Up The Nutrition

The main purpose of climbing vines on trees is to survive. They simply absorb nutrients from trees instead of using their energy to produce a strong trunk. Finally, the tree may die slowly from malnutrition and dehydration if the vine is cutting off nutrient supplies, preventing it from moving sugar and other compounds to the trunk and roots.

2. Get More Sunlight

Vines that kill trees also need sunlight to survive. The majority of vines climb trees to get closer to the tree canopy and get more sunlight. The development of a tree slows down as a vine reaches its crown.

3. Providing Shade

This may be beneficial for gardeners who grow a tree vine. Tall trees may be able to provide shade, but they take up a lot of room and run the risk of toppling onto the closest structure. These issues are resolved by vines, which also offer shade that is temperature-adaptive for the growth season.

Invasive Vines That Kill Trees

The majority of the invasive species that are now prospering in the United States originated overseas, primarily in Europe and Asia. These plants proliferate quickly in an environment that has not developed to control its growth, despite the fact that they are frequently beautiful.

We’ll go into more depth regarding top 5 harmful tree killers in America below. Check this out!

1. Kudzu (Pueraria Montana)

vines that kill trees
Kudzu (Pueraria Montana)

Native to: North America and Europe.

Appearance: Kudzu has three oval to heart-shaped leaflets that are 3 to 4 inches long at the end of its dark-green, hairy, alternate, complex leaves that are alternate and alternatively lobed. It also has hairy stems. Vines have a maximum annual growth rate of 30 to 100 feet.

How they grow: It can grow up to a foot each day during the height of the summer. It grows vertically and wraps itself around trees with its huge leaves at such a rapid rate that it outcompetes large trees. It smothers other plants because of how quickly it grows, preventing them from getting sunlight and weakening a tree. Even kudzu can kill mature trees.

2. English Ivy (Hedera Helix)

vines that kill trees
English Ivy (Hedera Helix)

Native to:  Europe, Western Asia and Northern Africa.

Appearance: The majority of leaves are young, dull green, lobed, and have pronounced light veins. They reproduce by developing roots at stem nodes. The mature leaves are glossy green and unlobed, and they reproduce by producing black, berry-like fruits that resemble umbrella-shaped clusters of greenish flowers.

How they grow: English ivy prefers a long growing season, primarily in the spring and summer. Ivy frequently develops mature shrubby growth that blooms yellow-green flowers followed by black berries as it reaches the top levels of a tree’s canopy. Therefore, trees become weighed down by ivy and are more liable to topple.

3. Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus Orbiculatus)

vines that kill trees
Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus Orbiculatus)

Native to:  Eastern China, Korea, and Japan.

Appearance: Oriental bittersweet is a part of woody vines that may grow up to 100 feet in height with ease. It has circular, coarsely serrated, round or oval, glossy, alternating leaves with pointy points. You may find smaller vine with five-petalled flowers with a greenish yellow hue appear in the leaf axils in May or June.

How they grow: Oriental bittersweet spreads quickly in fields, forests, and hedgerows. With their thick, woody stems, the vines encircle tree trunks, tangle up trees, and cover the crown. In fact, the vine’s sheer weight has been known to uproot entire trees and cause tree tops to shatter and fall.

4. Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria Sinensis)

Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria Sinensis)
Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria Sinensis)

Native to: China.

Appearance: Chinese wisteria is a woody, deciduous vine with smooth, grayish-brown stems that have tiny white hairs on them. Before the alternate, counterclockwise-twisting leaves on the vine appear, the vine blooms in April or May. The flower racemes are colored lavender to purple and range in length from 6 to 12 inches.

How they grow: Chinese wisteria has a very aggressive growth that girdles and crushes a tree trunk with its sheer weight, eventually killing it over time. It can grow up to 25 feet high. It creates vine’s roots at each node and via its stolons.

5. Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera Japonica)

Japanese Honeysuckle  (Lonicera Japonica)
Japanese Honeysuckle  (Lonicera Japonica)

Native to:  East Asia, including Japan and Korea.

Appearance: Young vines have green stems with fine hairs. As the plant ages, the stems turn woody with a brown, unevenly peeling bark. The Japanese honeysuckle has two opposing, hairy, long, egg-shaped leaves per node.

How they grow: From late September through early May, Japanese honeysuckle grow fast. It scales shrubs and trees, even taking over tree canopies. Girdling occurs when vines tightly encircle stems and trunks of plants, blocking the flow of water through the plant and killing young shrubs and trees. So, trees can slowly die if honeysuckle growths cover the surrounding vegetation because the sunshine cannot reach the leaves.

Final Thought

Vines may look like a less harmful plant in your garden. But, they can be dangerous if you just let it grow on trees in your garden. Therefore, understanding vines that may kill their host would be very useful for you as gardeners to save trees in your yard. Hopefully, our article will help you to broaden your knowledge and fill you more with new insights while taking care of plants in your garden.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are vines good for the environment?

Yes, they are. Our natural forests contain a significant amount of native vines. They offer a variety of local creatures food, shelter, a haven, and places to lay their eggs. However, uncontrolled and strong vines can harm your trees since they need big host trees to climb.

Can ivy damage a tree?

Yes, they can. Where it is not desired, they might cover up pretty bark or add weight to a weak tree. Therefore, the uncontrolled ivy vines may cause broken or fallen trees. Regarding nutrition, ivy will take minerals and water from the earth around it to sustain its own growth.

Does kudzu vine kill trees?

Yes, it does. Kudzu will kill trees and forested cover. Besides, kudzu also will compete against new tree seeds. Fast-growing vines like kudzu outcompete anything from native grasses to fully developed trees by blocking the sunlight needed for photosynthetic activity that will cause trees to die.

Do vines destroy concrete?

Well, vines can’t directly destroy concrete material. With the exception of leaving tendrils that can be challenging to remove, vines don’t significantly harm well-built brickwork on their own. Houses constructed prior to 1930, however, have the issue that the mortar might not include Portland cement, making it more likely to erode over time.

Should you let vines grow on trees?

No. Trees and vines should often develop independently of one another. Undoubtedly, you shouldn’t allow fast-growing or evergreen vines to encroach on your trees. In general, all types of evergreens and the majority of fast-growing vines will hurt trees. If you find them uncontrolled growing, then you should kill vines properly.

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