Friday, March 11, 2011

Slender Water Vine

Cayratia clematidea
Some people dislike this little climber, considering it “weedy”.
I’m fond of it, myself.
Slender water vines are chaotic plants with a tendency to spread at will through the garden. They grow very fast, in spring, creating the impression that they will smother everything in sight - but they never fulfil the promise. The growth slows right down as soon as they begin flowering in summer - which happens when the stems are 2-3 metres long. The plants trail through the foliage of other plants, ornamenting them with these pretty leaves. The flowers are tiny and white, but add to the lacy appearance of this delicate-looking plant. They are followed by bird-attracting black fruits.
In autumn the above-ground parts of the vine die, and are easily pulled off their supporting plants by hand. Under the ground, they survive as tennis-ball sized tubers, to regrow in spring.
The brown tubers are edible, as are the tiny fruits, though neither has much flavour. The tubers were traditionally prepared by beating and roasting.
A very good reason for growing these plants is that they are the favourite host plant of the Joseph’s coat moth. This stunningly beautiful day-flying insect is often mistaken for a butterfly, as it is brightly coloured - black with red, yellow, and light blue markings, and the plant would be an appropriate inclusion in a garden designed to attract butterflies.
This female is probably laying eggs on this plant, which , as you can see from the poor state of its health, must have been treated with glyphosate, so if she did indeed leave eggs there they are doomed.


Anonymous said...

Cannot agree with some of your comments about this climber. It has smothered and killed at least two native trees in my garden at Highfields. I regard it as a pest.

Patricia Gardner said...

Thank you for your comment. It is interesting to hear another point of view. I have had this vine in my Highfields garden for thirty years, and my experience has always been that it doesn't live up to its apparent threat.
I wonder why the difference? Were your smothered plants rather young, perhaps? Or could there have been another cause of death, for the native trees? I wonder what species the killed plants were?

Ben Stuart-Carberry said...

I think anonymous may have mistaken this vine for the more aggressive Cardiospermum grandiflorum?

Patricia Gardner said...

Probably not, Ben.
The Cardiospermum doesn't like the climate up here at the top of the Great Dividing Range, and doesn't grow here. (We may suffer more from dry and frost, but it does at least save us from some of the feral horrors that you get closer to the coast.)
Like me, you may have more experience of the slender water vine than our anonymous commentor, and know that it doesn't live up to its initial apparent promise of smothering. However the story of this "dreadful smothering vine" is often repeated, usually by people with small gardens who weed meticulously, and get alarmed if anything grows rather quickly to more than a few feet high.