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Nearly 30 woody and 50 herbaceous vines grow in West Virginia. They thrive in every part of the state, although some occupy only certain areas. Twenty vines are exotics, meaning they are not native and came from elsewhere. Often they are aggressive, invasive pests. Greenbrier is an example of a native woody vine that has tendrils to help it climb. Its namesakes include Greenbrier County, Greenbrier River, the Greenbrier resort, and Ronceverte (which is French for ‘‘green brier’’).

The larger genera of vines are grapes, dewberries, morning glories, and clematis. Climbing bittersweet, crossvine, Virginia creeper, trumpet creeper, passionflower, wild potato vine, and pipevine are excellent native ornamentals when their growth is controlled. Exotic vines, such as oriental bittersweet, porcelain berry, wisteria, akebia, climbing wintercreeper, periwinkle, Japanese clematis, and Japanese honeysuckle are showy ornamentals that have become invasive pests.

Fruits of grapes, groundnut, wild potato vine, strawberry, wild yam, and dewberries provide food for wildlife and humans. Vines of grapes, Japanese honeysuckle, kudzu, clubmosses, and bittersweets are used by craftspeople to make baskets and wreaths.

An exotic vine with a nasty reputation is kudzu, which completely overgrows forests, roadsides, and stream banks in the Kanawha Valley and southern West Virginia. Canada moonseed, bittersweets, clematis, wisteria, and Virginia creeper have poisonous fruits or seeds. Poison ivy is notorious for causing itchy skin blisters.

Wild balsam-apple is a fast-growing native vine, with small melon-like spiny fruits, that easily grows 30 feet per year. Mile-a-minute, an exotic with very sharp prickles, easily overtops brushy roadsides in the Eastern Panhandle and in Wood County and on several Ohio River islands. In contrast is creeping snowberry in mountain bogs that grows only a few millimeters per year.

Written by William N. Grafton