Natural Area Preservation

Native Vines

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These are only some of the native vines you could choose for your landscape- check with local gardeners, nurseries, and other plant experts for more!  See the Resources section on our Native Plants page for some good places to start.

As a point of interest, we also mention how Native Americans and pioneers used some of these plants for food or medicine.  However, this is not meant as a promotion of their use in this way today.  Historical records may be inaccurate or unclear, and the reader should not interpret this information as being an endorsement of that use being safe.

Each vine is linked to its profile at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  All links will open in a new window.

Greenbriar, prickly or bristly (Smilax tamnoides)
This is a semi-woody, prickly vine found in moist, open woods, as well as old fields and woodland edges.  It climbs by tendrils that twine around the structure on which it is growing.  It tolerates a variety of conditions including clay and alkaline soils.  The glossy, deep green leaves can turn golden-yellow in fall and may persist into December.  Small, inconspicuous, star-shaped June flowers are greenish and held in a spherical cluster of few to many flowers.  The fruit of this species is a blue-black berry that matures in October to November in a drooping, long-stemmed cluster that is eaten by wintering birds and mammals.  The twigs have straight, blackish prickles and the lower stems are more densely bristled than new growth.  The roots and young leaves are edible.

Moonseed (Menispermum canadense)
Moonseed is a semi-woody species that typically grows in deciduous woods and swamp forests where soils are rich and evenly moist.  It is also flood-tolerant.  This vine scrambles on the ground or climbs on trees and shrubs by twining its stem around other twigs and stems.  Its roundish, bright green leaves turn yellow in autumn.  The blossoms appear in white clusters June through July and turn into blue-black fruit that matures in September.  Songbirds, game birds, and small mammals quickly devour the berries.  Moonseed requires both male and female plants for fruiting.  It will spread by underground runners and may be considered weedy by some in urban settings.  This is a vine for wild woodland gardens.

Riverbank grape (Vitis riparia)
Riverbank grape is a common vine throughout Michigan.  It grows in a wide variety of moisture and light conditions and tolerates alkaline soils, droughts, and floods.  A sturdy deciduous climber, it attaches by vining tendrils to attain heights of 35' or more.  The leaves of this vine are glossy and bright green, often turning bright yellow in fall.  In early summer it produces long, loose clumps of small, very fragrant, green-white to cream-colored flowers that mature into an elongated cluster of blue-black fruit in late summer.  The fruit is tart but edible and usually stays sour until after a frost.  It makes good jelly, juice, or wine.  This species is a favorite of birds and mammals.  Its bark shreds in strips and is considered ornamental.  The woody vines are commonly used to make decorative wreaths.

Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
Virginia creeper is a deciduous, high-climbing vine and creeping groundcover that will grow in a variety of soil and light conditions from coarse sands to clay.  This plant is very deep-rooting and can be difficult to move once established.  Its vining tendrils produce adhesive discs that help it cling tightly to the surfaces it contacts.  It’s probably best not to plant this species where it can climb on a painted wall.  Virginia creeper will adhere to both rough- and smooth-barked trees.  Its deep green leaves consist of five leaflets that add interesting texture and contrast in the garden and provide beautiful, brilliant red to red-purple color in fall.  This vine blooms in the summer in clusters of tiny white flowers that produce dark blue-black berries in the fall.  As a beautiful contrast, the berries are held on stems that turn red when they are in sunlight.  This fruit is a valued favorite of birds and small mammals but it is thought to be poisonous to humans.  Virginia creeper can be an aggressive grower, which can be an advantage when using it as a ground cover.  It is a beautiful addition to any garden.

Virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana)
This native Clematis is an open, climbing and trailing vine that grows in a variety of open or wooded conditions and prefers moist soils.  In the wild it is typically found at the woodland border and in clearings where it will climb to 15' using its twisting leaf stalks.  This species also tolerates alkaline soils.  Although not resembling the commonly planted, ornamental Clematis, both the flowers and fruit of this vine are eye-catching.  The small flowers blossom over an extended season from late July through September in many white or cream-colored, fragrant clusters that can cover the plant and be quite spectacular.  September brings feathery orbs of seeds with silver-gray plumes that persist through November and provide beautiful texture in the fall garden.  The main stems can be tinged an attractive red-purple. The leaves, which may turn purplish in fall, are poisonous.  With its July to September flowering, its fall color, and its beautiful wispy seeds, this vine is a natural choice for landscaping.

Yam, wild (Dioscorea villosa)
The deeply veined, heart-shaped leaves of wild yam are sure to add interest to the garden.  The flowers are inconspicuous, but the fruits are quite unusual.  They hang in clusters with each grape-sized fruit having three thin, papery wings extending from it.  This adaptable species will be happy either in partial shade or sun, but be sure to supply a trellis or other structure for its stems to twine around.

Contact Information
1831 Traver Rd
(734) 794-6627 
David Borneman, Manager