Today I engaged in my semiannual attempt to control wild grape vines throughout the wood border of our Columbia, Missouri, property. While the fruit of this fast growing vine is an important food source for many songbirds and mammals, the aggressive vines can cause significant damage to trees and shrubs, blocking sunlight and weighing down the supporting plants.
Native to humid, Temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere, wild grape vines are represented by at least 60 species; of course, domesticated grape vines are derived from these wild species. Most wild grape vines (unlike domesticated species) produce only male or female flowers on any given plant; these flowers, which appear during the second year of new growth, are pollinated by the wind and yield loose clumps of purple-black grapes by late summer. Seeds are dispersed by wildlife that feast on the fruit but new growth may also sprout from older vine stumps (as many homeowners know all too well). Frequent cutting of the vines is the most ecologic means of controlling their expansion.
When I was a pre-teen in the woods of Greater Cincinnati (see Wonderland), large grape vines were a godsend, allowing us to swing out over ponds or creek beds. As an adult homeowner, my image of these prolific plants has become far less positive.