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Why I am interested in vines

If I would not have done farming, I would maybe have tried to do a career in research on vines. I think vines are one of the most interesting creatures on the planet.

There are many different types of vines from many different plant families, each with its characteristics and growing patterns. Vines have so many uses in the world. They provide food, medicine, rope construction material; they fix nitrogen; hold the soil together; prevent soil erosion as ground cover; generally look pretty, and of course wine. The word “wine” comes from the word “vine”.  Although despite their positives, vines can also be aggressive weeds, becoming hard to control nuisance in the garden.

Sometimes I dream of “Vine gardens”… It would be a big garden full of different kinds of trees, but the trees would only exist as ‘living’ stakes for all kinds of vines.
Although there is multi-story farming where food-producing vines would grow on either food or non-food-producing trees. In practice, this would be limited, because the vines would regularly need to be cut down to not harm the fruit or nut production of the trees and the trees always play the dominant role.

In my dream vine garden, the vines would play the dominant role and vines would never be cut down, the production of the trees would not matter, and both non-food and food-producing vines would roam free. Of course, such a garden would not be realistic as a farmer, because there is little profit to be made from it, but maybe as a botanical research garden, it would be possible.

Although I did once do a fun experiment where I sowed over 2000 morning glory seeds of different colors in a small pot with nothing to climb on. As they sprouted they all started twisting around each other climbing upon themselves. Soon they formed several thick bundles with about 5 to 20 ‘cords’ per bundle. Then these thick bundles would then fuse to form even thicker bundles. It is like nature formed a strong rope all by itself.

This bundle of morning glories was so strong that it could grow up to 2 meters high like a tree without any stakes or trellis for climbing, it was supported all by its own. This huge bundle would also rotate around to scan the area for anything to climb on; every few hours it would be in a different position. Eventually, when it reached a little over 2 meters it did collapse from its weight, but I was surprised how strong and resilient it was. When the flowers bloomed it was magnificent to see a wide array of different colors.

Just recently I had a Singkamas (Jicamas) on the kitchen top that I was going to eat, but forgot about. It started growing on its own and in less than 2 days it had wrapped itself around the bottle of cooking oil. I will plant it in the ground soon. Isn’t that so amazing?

My parents have an English Ivy (Hedera Helix) over 20 years old in their garden, growing on the fence. Every year it hosts bird nests; sometimes it even had beehives, and occasionally hedgehogs make their nests in the thick layer of leaf litter underneath. The flowers provide food for the bees and the berries provide food for the birds. The base trunk of this English Ivy is thicker than my fist and it forms a thick canopy that is nearly like a tree. The shade it provided was even good enough to grow mushrooms underneath.

I listened to a podcast some weeks ago. It was about grapevine farmers trying to make a natural grape farm for rich flavored wines. Modern grape farms are planted in rows with plowing, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, monocultures, and grafted or cloned vines growing on stakes.
In the natural grape farm, they would throw out randomly many thousands of grape seeds of hundreds of different varieties into an old abandoned tree orchard. The grapes would grow up into the trees and sprawl around all over the ground and form a ground cover between the weeds. Of course, there would be no plowing, no fertilizers, no weeding, and no pesticides.

I am curious how such naturally produced wine would taste with so many different varieties of grapes.
I always wonder about the roles of vines and lianas in the ecosystem. There has been little in-depth research done on vines. I read an article once where research was done on lianas in the rain forest. In this research, there were 2 regions of rain forest. In one region all lianas were cut down and in the other region, lianas would grow as normal.

The research found out that in the forest where there were no lianas the trees produced more seeds and fruits, and thus the research concluded that lianas are bad for the ecosystem.
But as a natural farmer, I would have to disagree with their conclusion… There is no fault in nature.
Altho tall rainforest trees do sometimes break off their branches to get rid of lianas or even start swaying themselves a bit to shake off the lianas, this doesn’t mean lianas are bad for trees; it is just nature balancing itself. For example, animals use lianas to go from tree to tree which helps in seed dispersal, fertilization, and biodiversity.

I found another study that showed that lianas can help stabilize a rain forest in hurricanes by connecting all the trees for mutual support against hurricanes. Most hurricanes appear in tropical rain forests, so it is no surprise thick lianas especially grow in rain forests.

Maybe it might not be a bad idea to allow vines to grow on young trees just a few months before hurricanes are expected, it might help the trees have support against the wind. Then when the hurricanes are over the vines can be cut off again. Of course, this would need the correct timing.
I have a few big wild trees (Samean saman and Ficus Septica) on my farm that have very thick woody medicinal lianas growing on them. The stems of these trees are so thick that it is nearly impossible for smaller non-woody vines to grow on them, but I noticed how smaller non-woody vines started wrapping themselves around the lianas that have a smaller stem; so that these non-woody vines such as Clitoria can grow up into the tree. Ants then use the smaller vines to climb onto the lianas to climb into the tree. This is like nature making a stepped staircase from bigger to smaller.

Thank you for reading.

Do you have interesting stories or fun facts to share about vines? I would love to hear and learn more.

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