The discovery of the super-tall Virginia creeper last week got me
thinking about several things. One is we don't typically track
have a "database" of them on the website. I have measured a few here
there that I happened to notice but do not actively search them out.
example, while treating the hemlocks in the Coon Branch Natural
Area, SC in
September I measured a wild muscadine grape (Vitus rotundifolia)
into a white pine to no less than 135 feet. My previous record for
creeper was 131.5 feet for a 3/8th inch vine growing into one of the
Search hemlocks. I have also measured Dutchman's pipe (Aristolochia
to the mid 120's in the Smokies. "Dales Demise", the 180 foot
white pine in the Smokies is full of grape vines that have never
measured. Congaree is chock full of huge vines and these could be
February. Meeman Shelby is also an impressive liana site as shown in
post of Jess and my trip in 2006.
Doug Riddle and a VA creeper in Congaree
Dutchman's pipe in GRSM, TN
Also, how high can a liana grow? Obviously it would be dependent
height of the trees. Maybe there are 200 foot poison ivy vines on
faces somewhere? In the eastern forests, Virginia creeper will never
high as those in the Smokies since the trees that support them are
elsewhere. (Yes, Bob, this puts the Smokies onto another superlative
But one possible difference in lianas is path length, not absolute
Some vines may have several miles of combined vascular pathways (as
180 foot tuliptree.). Maybe liana heights are limited the same as
height? For a tree to reach 180 feet it takes a huge amount of
pathways to support that one highest tip. Perhaps this is the same
I am also intrigued by the mechanical logistics of climbing
balance of light, growth, substrate (bark), strength (free hanging
attached), twining, etc. opens up a whole new understanding of liana
ecology. Interestingly, in all of my climbs I have never seen an
Are there western temperate lianas that could grown taller than
in the east? Asian? Bruce Allen probably has some background on
Will F. Blozan
President, Eastern Native Tree Society
President, Appalachian Arborists, Inc.
Great stuff. I would guess then that the greatest potential for
highest vines would be in the forests of the Pacific northwest.
Hopefully Steve Sillett, BVP, or others from our NW cluster will
provide some information from the area. I already checked the
old-growth books from the Washington State website and they say
nothing about vines in the canopies.
http://rainforests.mongabay.com/0406.htm discussing tropical
vines says: "Creepers, vines, and lianas (woody vines) are abundant
in the canopy and make up a significant proportion of the vegetation
in tropical rainforests. There are over 2,500 species of vines from
about 90 families. They range from small, indiscrete vines that grow
against the tree to giant lianas thick as trees that seemingly hang
in the middle of the forest independent of trees. Some of the larger
woody lianas may exceed 3,000 feet in length. Rattan, a liana, is
well known for its use in furniture and ropes. Rattan also produces
large, edible fruits—a favorite of primates."
Stefan Schnitzer of the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee is a
researcher in among other things the community ecology of lianas.
In response to an email I sent him about some of the vines we are
finding here in the eastern US, he replied: "Very interesting
stuff. Grapes can attain an impressively large circumference - 4'9"
is quite amazing. The largest vine that I have come across in
Panama was an Entada monostachia (legume) that was just over 55 cm
diameter, which, if my calculations are correct, is 69" (5'9") in
circumference. I don't normally follow vine height - it takes too
much time. However one researcher followed a vine in Panama for
more than 500 meters in distance through something like 39 tree
crowns before he stopped - the vine didn't stop, though."
In a 2002 paper, Schnitzer and Bongers review some of the
mechanisms lianas use to ascend to the heights of the canopy.
"Lianas have a variety of adaptations for attaching themselves to
their host and climb towards the forest canopy," say the scientists.
"These adaptations include stem twining, clasping tendrils arising
from stem, leaf and branch modifications, thorns and spikes that
attach the liana to its host, downward-pointing adhesive hairs, and
adhesive, adventitious roots . . . The relative proportion of lianas
with different climbing mechanisms might be directly influenced by
the successional stage or disturbance regime of the forest." Upon
reaching the canopy, vines and lianas spread from tree to tree, and
in some forests their leaves may make up 40 percent of canopy
leaves. Hemiepiphytes rely on a different strategy. These plants
start life in the canopy as epiphytes and grow down to the ground.
Hemiepiphytes grow extremely slowly due to dry conditions in the
canopy but once the roots reach the ground and tap into the
nutrients of the leaf litter, growth rates accelerate. One of the
best known hemiepiphytes is the Strangler Fig. (Schnitzer, S.A. and
F. Bongers (2002). The ecology of lianas and their role in forests.
Trends in Ecology and Evolution 17: 223 - 230. PDF)
The number of species of vines in temperate United States is
certainly much smaller than found in many tropical forests, and
their role in the shaping the ecosystem may not be as dramatic, but
certainly this is a subject worth examining as part of the overall
I haven't studied how high lianas grow into tree tops but they
top the canopy in the Congaree. Grapes and trumpet creeper, in
particular, over top their host. I collected maximum diameter data
during my vine coring trip to the Congaree. The larges grape was
cm dbh. The largest trumpet creeper was 40 cm dbh. Seven species
larger than 10 cm dbh in the Congaree. The study of Lianas has
focused on tropical forests primarily (See Schnitzer and Bongers
2002). I have written three papers on temperate vine ecology in the
Congaree. My dissertation involved coring 100 poison ivy and
creeper, so I have a little more insight in radial growth rates.
Schnitzer has focused primarily on tropical vines at this point.
While my recall is imperfect, I believe I recall numbers like 280'
plus on the height that poison oak climbs up into the coastal
redwoods. BVP, have you any numbers on this?
Thanks for the input. Perhaps you can fill in some of the blanks
in the data when I get the Woody Vines listings posted in a few
days. I have read a number of the more popular accounts of your
vine research on the web:
Increase In Creeping Vines Signals Major Shift In Southern US
ScienceDaily (July 19, 2007) - A new study of bottomland hardwood
forests in the southeastern United States suggests that the
increased growth of vines may change the landscape of these forests.
Vines Take Over Southern U.S. Forests By Andrea Thompson,
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 19 July 2007 08:55 am ET
07/17/2007 Increase in Creeping Vines Signals Major Shift in
Southern U.S. Forests
Writer: Holly Wagner
Poison ivy in area is spreading By Rob Pavey| Outdoors Editor
Sunday, January 06, 2008
Do you have copies of your dissertation or more formal papers on
your research at Congaree and in Georgia online anywhere where it
can be accessed or referenced? Maybe if you make it to Congaree in
February, you can bring copies of some of your vine research
materials so that we can add to the measurements rather than
I didn't come up with those headlines. They routinely got close to
the fact wrong. Ohio State asked to do a press release and it
snowballed from there. SAF did a pretty good story in the Foresty
my dissertation is available online:
Other papers online:
I also wrote:
Allen, B.P., E.F. Pauley, and R.R. Sharitz. 1997. Hurricane
on liana populations in an old-growth southeastern bottomland
Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 124:34-42.
I can send a pdf if you are interested. I am unlikely to get to
Congaree in February, I don't accumulate leave very quickly in the
M Vaden, one of the newer ENTS members from the Pacific Northwest
has a couple of webpages with photos about Poison oak
He notes: "As a shrub form, poison-oak can be as tall as a small
vine maple. As a vine, poison oak can grow over 150 high, and may
not have lower stems or leaves. Few vines with smooth bark grow on
Pacific NW trees."
Some of his photos include: (caption) Found this cut poison-oak
vine on a fallen tree. Almost 70 growth rings: near 2" in
diameter.and (caption) Huge poison oak. 4" diameter trunk: Near 160'
tall. This is on Hiouchi Trail: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.
Not far from Grove of Titans on Hiouchi Trail is a steroids
poison-oak near 180' tall with 3" trunk - like a giant Anacoda on a
redwood. I estimate 180 years age for that vine.
Uhhmmm I'm sure that mvaden's estimates might be close, but no
limiting...I think I'll keep searching my memory, other sources, as
280 sticks in my mind...
Even more strong is the memory traces I have of the poison oaks
climbing way up into the coastal redwoods, in the spring and fall,
when it positively brightens up the Avenue of the Giants, a normally
shaded dark road through a deep dark redwood forest...used to pass
through it purposely each quarter, as a forestry student at Humboldt
State...absolutely unparalleled in contrast and brilliance, possible
equaled by the dogwoods going up steep drainages in the mountains
alongside the Smith River (Hiway 199 as it goes from Crescent City
to Ashland Oregon).
Those memory traces have lots of associates!~
I have been reading your dissertation Vegetation Dynamics and
response to Disturbance, in Floodplain Forest Ecosystems with a
Focus on Lianas, The Ohio State University, 2007 by Bruce P. Allen
other articles. Looking specifically for data on the size of the
vines you documented I found this comment:
Twenty-eight species of woody vines are known to occur in the CNP,
however, only six species of lianas exceed 10 cm in diameter
including rattan vine (Berchemia scandens (Hill) K. Koch), trumpet
creeper (Campsis radicans (L.) Seemann.), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus
quinquefolia, (L.) Planchon.), poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans
(L.) Kuntze.), muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia Michaux.), and
Simpson’s grape (V. cinerea var. floridana Munson).
I am wondering if you could provide some specific information on the
maximum sizes you fond for the other species of woody vines in
Congaree? It would provide a framework and a beginning point for
others to look at woody vines in other areas of the Eastern united
States. The specific data is not provided in the text.
I also found the comments in section 5 on the ages of the vines
intriguing. You wrote:
As a functional group, lianas may comprise more than 10%
of the stems in temperate floodplain forests (Allen et al. 2007),
yet little is known about their ecology. The objective of this
chapter is to apply dendroecological techniques to better understand
the influence of disturbance intensity on liana communities in an
old-growth bottomland hardwood forest. Specifically, there are two
questions: 1) how long do lianas live in temperate floodplain
forests? and 2) how do liana species respond to different types of
both natural and anthropogenic disturbance?...
Maximum age for Toxicodendron was 58 years and 38 years
for Campsis (Fig.5.6). Large Campsis stems were prone to heart rot
and often had discontinuous cambium producing a lobed or braided
appearance (Fig. 5.7). While the largest cored stem was 14.6 cm,
stems frequently exceeded 20 cm in diameter with a maximum of 40 cm
diameter observed. Large stems were usually hollow, often splitting
into many stems. Toxicodendron was less prone to heart rot or
discontinuous cambium, but had a much smaller maximum diameter than
Campsis stems. Cored Toxicodendron stems typically reached 10 cm in
diameter, while the largest live stem observed reached 13.5 cm dbh.
Large stems usually had intact cambium when they died.
You wrote that after coring six different species you decided to
concentrate on the trumpet creeper and the poison ivy, two species
that had distinct annual rings. You collected 100 usable cores from
each species and even provided the 100 dendrograms for each species
in your appendix. I am wondering if the selection of these two
species were because of practical considerations of collecting
sufficient numbers of samples within a time frame, or whether the
other species lacked distinct enough annual rings to date them well?
I would guess you sampled some of the larger vines of other species
before making this determination. Do you have core sample ages for
any other species not included in your dissertation?
You noted that you did not cross-date the cores as this
represented only the second sizable study of the ages of lianas in
the US. I am wondering if your did any type of cross-dating
analysis within the dataset between your samples? I see you have
described several release episodes in your sample areas.
In addition to the six species mentioned, Chinese Wisteria also
approaches 10 cm in the uplands along the park. The only
species that had distinct annual rings was cross vine (Bignonia
capriolata) but I rarely found it big enough to core. Virginia
creeper had semi distinct rings. Grape were impossible to identify
rings from a core although I have seen sheered stem that left
The largest diameter stems I found were:
Pepper vine (Ampelopsis arborea) 7.6 cm dbh (oldest - ?)
Rattan vine (Berchemia scandens) 12.1 cm (?)
Cross vine (Bignonia capriolata) 4.1 cm (16 yrs)
Trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) 40.0 cm (14.3 cm dbh 38 years
I modeled the growth for the 40 cm stem at 62 years based on the ten
fastest growing stems
Climbing hydrangea (Decumaria barbara) 2.5 cm
Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) 11.0 cm
Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) 13.1 cm (~28 yrs)
poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) 13.5 cm (7.8 cm 58 yrs)
Florida grape (Vitis cinerea) 24.5 cm
Muscadine grape (Vitis rotundifolia) 12.7 cm
Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) ~8.0 cm
I have pictures and gps coordinates for all but the Chinese
I put together a poster on vines for the Congaree but never got any
feed back on it. It had pictures of leaves, large examples and cores
along with a little data but it is about 21 mb.
Thanks for all the information. I will post it in the lists.
What did you envision doing with your poster? Why was it created?
Maybe you could present the information at a conference? Maybe it
could be put out in a smaller format in the ENTS Bulletin with Don's
approval. If you want input on it, there is room to post it
temporarily on the Google page in the files section. Then
interested people could download it for comment. If it is in pdf
format I can post it to the website for download (many other formats
want to re-upload every time I update the website and 21 MB is just
too big to deal with that problem).
I'd be happy to consider an article based on this poster for the
Bulletin, if Bruce is willing to prepare it...the Bulletin can
handle color graphics easily...
Don C. Bragg, Ph.D.
USDA Forest Service
Southern Research Station