Native Vines of the Northeast
and Great Lakes Region



Native Vines of the Northeast, cover the New England states and beyond. It stretches from north through and to the Canadian maritime provinces and into Quebec and Ontario.

West through the Great Lakes Region and the Mississippi River, south to northern Kentucky and Virginia into the Mid-Atlantic region.

Native plants are important for wildlife and habitats and that goes for native climbers as well. While vining species aren't as numerous as trees, bushes and flowers are. They do play an important roll.

Vining plants offer food and protection for several species of birds, mammals and even butterflies. They provide blossoms for pollinators, berries for birds and all kinds of mammals.

Thick woody natives can create thick brambles that provide nesting sights and protection for some birds, including Bob white quail. Vining plants can grow over bushes, creating a thick canopy. While others can climb trees and even man made structures offering food, protection and are pleasing to your eyes.

Many natives like 'Poison Ivy' are not what you would want in your gardens. They too however, offer much for wildlife.

A couple of natives vines that offer food for human consumption as well.

Before you run out and purchase any climbers for your habitats and gardens, look into native plants.

There are several that are native, that you can buy from garden centers or dig from your own fields or with permission from the land owner.

If you live in the Northeast or Great Lakes Region as I do (Michigan), then you have a nice variety of vining plants to choosing from. Some are woody and a few are herbaceous plants that die off and come back new every year.

I hope to provide you with a nice list of vines and climbers, and some information on native climbers and vines that not only will help your wildlife, but look good doing so.

Not all plants are native to all areas, but there are a few that are ubiquitous to the Northeast an beyond, be sure to check hardiness zones and locations.

Now here is a good sample for your northeast habitats and gardens.

Apois tuberosa or americana:

Common Name: Ground Nut

Zone: 3 to 9

Plant Type: Vining

Native Range: Eastern 2/3 of the United States and Ontario and Quebec, Canada

Height: 15 to 20 feet

Spread: 4 to 6 feet

Bloom Time: Late Spring/Early Summer Mid Summer

Bloom Color: lavender/Maroon in rare occasions purple.

Sun: Sun to Partial Shade Light Shade

Water: Medium

Maintenance: Medium

Tubers or ground nuts are edible.

The Ground Nut is an aboriginal plant to the United States and it's remnants have been found in archaeological digs of Native American campsites in southern New England that go back 9,000 years.

The plant is a climber that develops pinkish-lavender and maroon flowers which form in clusters that are attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies.

Flowers are fragrant.

This plant may be considered a protected species; check before digging or gathering seeds.

Suitable for growing in containers.

Dutchman's pipe, a native that is growing in popularity.

Aristolochia tomentosa:

Common Name: Dutchman's pipe

Zone: 5 to 8

Plant Type: Vining

Family: Aristolochiaceae

Native Range: Southeastern and south-central United States. Expanded plantings into Wisconsin, Michigan, New York and much of the New England region have expanded the range of the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly.

Height: 20 to 30 feet

Spread: 5 to 10 feet

Bloom Time: May - June

Bloom Color: Greenish yellow

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Medium

Maintenance: Low

Showy flowers attract butterflies. Host plant to Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly.

Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Prefers rich, moist soils. Intolerant of dry soils. If needed, cut back in late winter to control growth. Grows well from seed.

This species of Dutchman's pipe is a woody, deciduous, twining that typically occurs along streams and in moist woods. It is typically seen in the wild climbing trees or shrubs and can rapidly grow to 20-30' tall. Features large, heart-shaped, densely-overlapping leaves (4-8" long) which can quickly cover an arbor or trellis with deep green foliage.

Commonly called Dutchman's pipe because the unusual, 2" long, yellowish-green, curved-trumpet flowers (each flaring at the calyx mouth to form three brownish-purple lobes) superficially resemble Dutch smoking pipes. Although the flowers make interesting conversation pieces, they are usually hidden by the dense foliage and are somewhat inconspicuous. Flowers give way to ribbed, tubular seed capsules (to 3" long) which mature to a grayish-brown in September.

The leaves, young stems and flowers of this native are hairy (tomentose as the species name suggests). Very similar to A. macrophylla which is native to eastern North America, except A. macrophylla is basically glabrous (smooth). Aristolochia is a larval plant for the pipe vine swallowtail butterfly.

No serious insect or disease problems.

Can provide dense cover for sun porches, verandas, pillars, posts, trellises, arbors, fences or walls. Has been popularly used for many years to screen front porches. good selection for a butterfly garden.

Bignonia capreolata:

Common Name: cross vine

Zone: 5 to 9

Plant Type: Vining

Family: Bignoniaceae

Native Range: Southern portion of the northeast and well established into the deep south. Possible to grow in some northern regions., into southern Ontario with winter protection.

Height: 35 to 50 feet

Spread: 6 to 9 feet

Bloom Time: May - June

Bloom Color: Orange-red

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Medium

Maintenance: Medium

Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Tolerates full shade, but best flower production occurs in sun. Prune after flowering if needed. Above ground stems are not reliably winter hardy throughout USDA Zone 5 where they may die to the ground in severe winters (roots are usually hardy therein and will sprout new growth the following spring).

In colder areas, it is best to plant this native climber in a protected location and apply a winter mulch. Established plants may send up root suckers which should be removed if spread is not desired.

Cross vine is a vigorous, semi-evergreen, woody native which climbs by tendrils. It is grown primarily for its orange-red, trumpet-shaped spring flowers and for its ability to rapidly cover structures with attractive foliage.

In the wild, it typically grows 35-50' (less frequently to 70') and is often found climbing up the trunks of tall trees or sprawling along the ground. In cultivation, it usually grows shorter. Foliage remains evergreen in the South, but turns reddish-purple in fall with subsequent leaf drop in the coldest areas of its range.

Fragrant, trumpet-shaped, orange-red flowers (to 2" long) appear in spring. Flowers are followed by greenish, pod-like seed capsules (to 7" long) which mature in late summer and persist into fall. A cross section of stem reveals a marking resembling the Greek cross, hence the common name.

There are plenty of native climbers to look into, just remember to look at hardiness zones first.

Campsis radicans:

Common Name: trumpet creeper

Zone: 4 to 9

Plant Type: Vining

Family: Bignoniaceae

Native Range: Southeastern United States and beyond as it is naturalized throughout the Great Lakes.

Height: 25 to 40 feet

Spread: 5 to 20 feet

Bloom Time: July

Bloom Color: Orange, scarlet

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Medium

Maintenance: High

A fast growing native climber with flowers that attract hummingbirds. Will naturalize and take over if not kept in check.

Easily grown in most soils. Best in lean to average soils with regular moisture in full sun. Foliage grows well in shade, but plants need good sun for best flowering

The problem with trumpet creeper is usually not how to grow it but how to restrain it. This native plant blooms on new growth, so early spring pruning will not affect the flowering. Plant must be grown on sturdy structures because mature plants produce considerable weight. This is an extremely aggressive plant which suckers profusely from underground runners and freely self-seeds.

Will form impenetrable colonies in the wild which can choke out many plants that get in its way.

Radicans means stem-rooting in reference to the aerial rootlets.

A good plant for Woodland gardens and naturalized areas. Provides quick cover for fences, arbors, trellises, walls or other structures in the landscape. Also may be grown along the ground to camouflage rock piles or old tree stumps. A good vining plant for hot, dry sites. Needs lots of room. Excellent for hummingbird gardens.

Celastrus scandens:

Common Name: American bittersweet

Zone: 3 to 8

Plant Type: Vining

Family: Celastraceae

Native Range: North America

Height: 15 to 20 feet

Spread: 3 to 6 feet

Bloom Time: May - June

Bloom Color: Greenish-white to yellow

Sun: Full sun

Water: Medium

Maintenance: Low

Not to be confused with the invasive Oriental Bittersweet (C. orbiculatus ).

Attracts birds and other wildlife.

Fall and winter interest.

Easily grown in most soils.

Best in lean to average soils with regular moisture in full sun. Lean soils help restrain growth. Will grow in part shade, but needs full sun for best flowering and subsequent fruit display. Prune in late winter to early spring. Mature vines require little pruning other than removal of dead or excess growth.

These native are primarily dioecious (separate male and female plants), although some have a few perfect flowers. Female plants need a male pollinator to produce the attractive fruit that is the signature of this vine.

Unfortunately, some nurseries do not sell the vines as male or female (as is commonly done with hollies). Generally one male plant is needed for 6-9 female plants. Female plants may be vegetatively propagated to create more female plants.

Plants may be grown on structures or allowed to ramble along the ground. It is generally best to avoid growing vines up small trees or through shrubs because vines grow rapidly and can girdle trunks and branches causing damage and sometimes death.

Some newer cultivars now produce both flowers, be sure to ask.

American bittersweet is a deciduous twining woody climber that is best known for its showy red berries that brighten up fall and winter landscapes. This species is native to central and eastern North America. It is often seen growing along the ground, over and through low shrubs or circling trees in the wild.

Fruits split open in fall to reveal scarlet fleshy berry-like seeds (arils). Fruits are poisonous if ingested, but are considered to be quite tasty by many birds.

A native for woodland gardens, naturalized areas. Provides quick cover for fences, arbors, trellises, posts, walls or other structures in the landscape. Also may be grown along the ground to camouflage rock piles or old tree stumps.

Clematis virginiana

Common Name: woodbine

Zone: 3 to 9

Plant Type: Vining

Family: Ranunculaceae

Native Range: Eastern North America

Height: 12 to 20 feet

Spread: 3 to 6 feet

Bloom Time: August - October

Bloom Color: White

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Medium to wet

Maintenance: Low

Plant will naturalize. Showy fragrant white flowers in late summer through early fall.

Easily grown in average, medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. This species will thrive and bloom in considerable shade. Blooms on current year’s growth. May be pruned back hard (to 8-12” from the ground) to strong leaf buds in fall after flowering or in late winter to early spring.

A native vine that needs adequate supply of nutrients during the growing season to support rush of growth. Can spread aggressively by self-seeding and suckering.

Woodbine is a fall-blooming native that is somewhat similar in flower to the introduced species Sweet autumn clematis (C. terniflora), but lacks the tough, leathery leaves of the latter.

It is native to eastern North America, where it typically occurs in moist low woodland areas and thickets bordering streams, ponds and fence rows.

A vigorous, deciduous, twining native with a rampant growth habit. If given support, it will climb rapidly with the aid of tendrilous leaf petioles to 20’. Without support, it will sprawl along the ground as a dense, tangled ground cover. Features sweetly aromatic, 1.25” diameter, pure white flowers (each with 4 narrow petal-like sepals) in axillary panicles from late August to October in a profuse bloom which typically covers the foliage.

This is a dioecious native, with the pistillate flowers giving way to attractive, plume-like seed heads (hence the sometimes common name of old man’s beard). Compound green leaves, each with 3-5 oval to elliptic sharply-toothed leaflets.

No serious insect or disease problems. Can be somewhat aggressive spreader.

Perhaps best in woodland and native plant areas where it can be allowed to scramble along the ground, over shrubs and along fences. Also may be grown on trellises, arbors, or posts. If grown through large shrubs, growth should be monitored to insure that the shrub is not overwhelmed.

Other native species of Clematis is C. occidentalis or purple clematis, western blue virgin's-bower.

Purple clematis is a climbing perennial with a woody stem and has very showy flowers that are 1½-inches to 2-inches long and hang down in an attractive bell like shape. One large plant can support several many clusters of flowers on each vine, making it quite a showy plant.

Purple clematis also blooms quite early in the growing season, which can be from April to June depending on where in the range the plants are located as well as local weather conditions. The leaves are three parted and long stalked and occur all along the woody stem sometimes together with the clusters of flowers or by themselves Plants with only leaves occur in shady situations, but in sunny locations, the plants can have dozens of flowers. The habitats where this plant can occur are listed as being "Calcareous cliffs, rock ledges, talus slopes, gravelly embankments, rocky woods, and clearings"

In the eastern U.S., purple clematis is listed as Endangered in Illinois, Maryland, and Rhode Island; of Special Concern in Massachusetts, Maine, and Wisconsin; and Presumed Extirpated in Ohio.

Clematis crispa (leatherflower) KY., TN,., VA., and southern IL., and all of south

Clematis pitcheri: (leather flower, purple clematis) parts of KY., TN., IN. and IL. and much of the lower Midwest.

Lonicera sempervirens

Common Name: trumpet honeysuckle

Zone: 4 to 9

Plant Type: Climber

Family: Caprifoliaceae

Native Range: Eastern and central United States

Height: 10 to 20 feet

Spread: 3 to 6 feet

Bloom Time: May - June

Bloom Color: Scarlet/orange with yellow inside

Sun: Full sun

Water: Medium

Maintenance: Low

A native climber with attractive flowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators, showy fruits offer food for birds

Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun. Tolerates shade, but the profuseness of flowering is inversely proportional to the amount of shade. Adapts to a wide range of soils. Prefers moist, loamy soils. Blooms primarily on previous year's stems, so prune to shape after flowering.

Trumpet honeysuckle is a vigorous, deciduous, twining native vine which typically grows 10-15' (less frequently to 20') and is one of the showiest of the native vining honeysuckles. Large, non-fragrant, narrow, trumpet-shaped flowers are scarlet to orangish red on the outside and yellowish inside.

Flowers appear in late spring at stem ends in whorled clusters. Flowers give way to small red berries which mature in fall and are attractive to birds.

Oval, bluish-green leaves on this native vine are glaucous beneath. This native vine is evergreen in the warm winter climates of the deep South, hence the species name of sempervirens (meaning "evergreen" in Latin). Although probably not indigenous to many parts trumpet honeysuckle has escaped cultivation and naturalized in some areas.

No serious insect or disease problems.

Best grown on trellises, fences, arbors or pergolas.

Lonicera dioica (limber or wild honeysuckle) is a more wild form of native vine honeysuckle that is used for larger habitats.

moderate moisture; woods, forests; in rocky soil

Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Common Name: Virginia creeper

Zone: 3 to 9

Plant Type: Vine

Family: Vitaceae

Native Range: Eastern United States to Mexico

Height: 30 to 50 feet

Spread: 5 to 10 feet

Bloom Time: May - August

Bloom Color: Greenish white

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Medium

Maintenance: Medium

Fruit attracts birds, foliage has attractive fall color and fall color and the showy fruit lasts into winter.

Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Tolerates full shade and a wide range of soil and environmental conditions.

This native vine is a deciduous, woody vine that is found in open areas in ravines, rich woods and valleys. A vigorous tendril-climber that needs no support and typically grows 30-50'. Adheres to flat surfaces (e.g., brick, stone or wood walls) via adhesive disks at the tendril ends. Compound-palmate leaves (usually 5 leaflets, with each leaflet to 6" long) emerge purplish in spring, mature to dull green in summer and change to purple to crimson-red in autumn.

Fall color can be quite attractiveon this native vine. Clusters of small, greenish-white flowers appear in the upper leaf axils in late spring to early summer, but are generally hidden by the foliage. Flowers give way to dark blue to black berries which are attractive to birds. Closely related to and once included in the genus Ampelopsis.

No serious problems. Mildews, leaf spots, canker and wilt are occasional problems. Also susceptible to a number of insect pests including beetles, scale and leaf hoppers. Once attached to the side of a building or home, it becomes difficult to remove and will damage painted surfaces and leave residues.

A host plant for Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) butterfly.

Passiflora incarnata

Common Name: wild passion flower 'Maypop'

Zone: 5 to 9

Plant Type: Vining

Family: Passifloraceae

Native Range: South and South Eastern United States North to Indiana and Illinois

Height: 6 to 8 feet

Spread: 3 to 6 feet

Bloom Time: July - September

Bloom Color: White with purple crown

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Medium

Maintenance: Medium

Very attractive flowers attract butterflies. This native vines is a host plant for Passionvine swallowtail butterflies.

Fruits are edible

Grow in average, medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Tolerant of drought. Roots appreciate a loose mulch. Although this species is the hardiest of the native vining passion flowers, it is not reliably winter hardy throughout USDA Zone 5 and may not survive extremely cold winters (I have grown this in Michigan with winter protection). It is best to plant this vine in a protected area. Can be easily grown from seed.

Passion flower is a rapid-growing native vine with tendril-climbing vine which is woody in warm winter climates and herbaceous (dies to the ground) in cold winter climates. A native of the Southeastern U.S. including and upto Indiana and Illinois, where it typically occurs in sandy soils, low moist woods and open areas. Features three-lobed, dark green leaves and showy, 2.5" diameter, fringed flowers having white petals and sepals and a central crown of pinkish-purple filaments.

Flowers bloom in summer and are fragrant. Fleshy, egg-shaped, edible fruits called maypops appear in July and mature to a yellowish color in fall. Ripened maypops can be eaten fresh off the vine or made into jelly. Maypop is also a common name for this vine.

No serious insect or disease problems for this native vine. Roots can spread aggressively.

May be used on trellises, arbors, walls or fences. The unique flower and edible fruit make this vine an extremely interesting plant for the garden.

Vitis riparia:

V. labrusca (fox grape)

V. aestivalis (summer grape)

Vitis riparia, also commonly known as River Bank Grape or Frost Grape, is a native vine of America, climbing or trailing vine, widely distributed from Quebec to Texas, and Montana to New England. It is long-lived and capable of reaching into the upper canopy of the tallest trees. It produces dark fruit that are appealing to both birds and people, and has been used extensively in commercial viticulture as grafted rootstock and in hybrid grape breeding programs.

Mature native vines have loose, fissured bark, and may attain several inches in diameter. Leaves are alternate, often with opposite tendrils or inflorescences, coarsely toothed, 5–25 cm (2–10in) long and 5–20 cm (2–8in) broad, sometimes with sparse hairs on the underside of veins.

The inflorescence is paniculate 4–15 cm (1.5–6 in) long and loose, and the flowers are small, fragrant, dioecious, and white or greenish in color. V. riparia blooms in May or June and produces a small 6–15 mm blue-black berry (grape) with a bloom, seeded, juicy, edible, vinous in flavor, lacking the "foxy" characteristics of Vitis labrusca, but usually quite sour and herbaceous. V. riparia has a wide range and may deviate considerably in detail from the above general description. White berries, perfect flowers, large clusters, large berries, and sweet fruit are among the known variations. However, some observers consider such variations as evidence of natural hybridization with other species of grapes.

V. riparia has the largest geographical range of any of the North American Vitis species. It is present across nearly the entire eastern half of North America, excepting the far south and the most western portions of the great plains. Variants of the species have been observed as far north as Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba, Canada and as far west as Montana, Nebraska, and North Dakota.

In the wild, the vine thrives along exposed areas with good sun exposure and adequate soil moisture, such as riverbanks, forest clearings, fence lines and along road sides. The species has adapted to a variety of soil chemistries.

If you don't have the time to maintain wld grapes, they are bes left in nature, large habitats, hedges and fence rows.

Other native vines for the wildlife habitats would be Smilax spp: or common name of Greenbrier

Several species of Smilax (Greenbrier) are native to the Northeast and Great Lakes region. Not a particularly attractive plant, Greenbriers offer food and protection for several species of birds and animals.

Woody or Herbaceous and many are endangered species. These native vines need male and female flowers to pollinate.

There are 20 native vine species in North America north of Mexico. They are climbing flowering plants, many of which are woody and/or thorny. Common names include catbriers, greenbriers, prickly-ivys and smilaxes. Occasionally, the non-woody species such as the Smooth Herbaceous Greenbrier (S. herbacea) is called "carrion flowers" for the unpleasing oder they emit.

Native Wisteria frutescens (American wisteria is another under used native vine that grows throughout much of the region.

Not as aggressive as the introduced Asian cousin.

Unlike Chinese wisteria, American wisteria may bloom sporadically through the summer if conditions are favorable.

American wisteria is a host plant for several species of butterflies, including the long-tailed skipper, for example. Native bees frequent the flowers.

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