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Think twice when a pretty vine captures your attention

Updated: Jun 18, 2023

Published June 17, 2023 in the McAllen Monitor

Red Center Morning Glory. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

Story and photos by Anita Westervelt

Vines are a lovely thing – until they get out of hand. Green leaves and brown twining stems go unnoticed as they wend their silent way through like-colored vegetation until suddenly, blooms burst forth, calling attention to the vining covert invasion.

Red center morning glory, Ipomoea amnicola, is one of those vines that announces itself with a superfluity of blooms. The vine is native to Paraguay, in the bindweed family, but is found in Mexico and much of South America.

Red Center Morning Glory vine. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

It is noted to have been successfully introduced into Arkansas, Missouri and Texas – making it sound as though that’s a good thing. And perhaps at one time that may have been the case.

The trouble with introduced species is that they can acclimate to their new territory so well they may take over, even to the extent of prohibiting growth of native species. Vines have an added advantage by being able to travel great lengths, covering everything in their path, climbing over shrubs and trees, even smothering the support plants.

Red centered morning glory flowers are pretty with their white frilly flared petals and deep red centers. They are hearty bloomers; they also are prolific seed producers. The leaves are fairly large, about three and a half inches long, thin, pale green and heart shaped. Vines are easy enough to eradicate. They have a small root base. Young vines can be pulled out of the ground or plants can be uprooted before the blooms go to seed, curtailing the spread of the aggressive plant.

Red Center Morning Glory vines covering Retama Trees in inaccessible thorn scrub forest. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

Rubber vine, Cryptostegia grandiflora, is another vine that has been introduced to most tropical and subtropical regions because of its attractive, dark pink, trumpet-like flowers. The leaves are bright green, shiny and leathery. It is a woody-perennial native to south-west Madagascar.

Rubber Vine blooms. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

Rubber vines are considered invasive. They are toxic to humans, pets and livestock if ingested; the white sap can cause irritation and allergic reactions to bare skin.

Without support, a rubber vine can grow six or seven feet tall as a shrub; when supported on other vegetation, vines can reach upwards of 100 feet in length. Pairs of large seed pods, joined at the base, follow the blooms. Each pod contains numerous seeds which are attached to tufts of white silky hairs; seeds are dispersed by wind and water.

Rubber Vine paired seed pods. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

A third vine to cause concern is the beautiful corona de reina, or queen’s wreath, Antigonon leptopus, a perennial vine in the buckwheat family native to the Pacific and Atlantic coastal plains of Mexico. It is widely introduced and invasive throughout tropical regions around the globe, including in the south and eastern United States.

Corona de Reina twining on a Texas Ebony tree. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

The flowers are white or deep coral/pink. The leaves are lovely and large, crinkly textured and heart shaped. The vine is fast growing, spreads over the tops of trees, seeking sun, where it sends out new growth from the vine stem, ultimately covering the crown, restricting sunlight to the vegetation beneath it and eventually killing what it covers.

Many introduced and invasive species are pretty but consider the consequences before adding them to the landscape.



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