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Nothing Divine About Tree-Choking Vines: Why Vines and Trees Can't Coexist

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A vine that is established and grown as part of garden décor, turning a fence or pole into a living, ornamental barrier, is a blessing to any gardening enthusiast. However, if not carefully monitored, a vine can snake its way around the trunks and branches of nearby trees. Although this might look spectacular for a while, eventually the vine may strangle and smother the tree. Just like the fast-growing lianas that are currently strangling the life out of many trees in the Amazon rain forest, some vine species are deadly to trees and should be removed as soon as possible.

Vines Choke and Smother Trees to Death

Some species of vine, which will be covered in the next section, wrap so tightly around the trunk and branches of trees that they cut off the flow of nutrients and water. Trees that are thicker than 10 inches in diameter may survive, but smaller branches won't. These dead branches become hazardous in high winds.

Likewise, when vines grow out of control, they smother the canopies of trees. This prevents a tree from drawing valuable energy from sunlight, the energy used to convert air and water into a food source. Affected trees will eventually die. They may first grow so weak that diseases and fungi take over, slowly killing the tree along with the vine. When trees are smothered by vines, it's almost impossible to notice disease or fungi.

Remove These Vines from Your Trees

Some vines are more deadly than others; however, because they tend to be stunning when in bloom, you may be tempted to let them grow. Identify them, and remove them quickly.

Wisteria: When wisteria blooms in spring, the multitudes of pink, blue or white racemes of flowers are breathtaking to look at. Treetops become colourful and candyfloss-like in spring. However, despite its beauty, Japanese and Chinese wisteria is deadly to trees.

Morning Glory: Those gorgeous blue and purple trumpet-like flowers can make you forget just how invasive and deadly this vine can be. It destroys walls, strangles plants, and chokes the life out of trees.

Balloon Vine: So called because it produces clusters of balloon-like seed pods, this vine species is classified as a weed in Australia. Though it produces pleasant clusters of white flowers in winter, it will strangle and smother trees to death if left to its own devices.

These vines should be cut at the base to deprive them of nutrients. You will then need to remove the vines from the trunk and branches of your tree. If your tree is particularly large or appears to be dying, you should call an arborist and talk about potential tree lopping. Dead and dying trees can cause catastrophic damage when brought down by high winds.