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Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society

Focusing on native plants and conservation in North Idaho

Orange Honeysuckle (Western Trumpet Honeysuckle)
Lonicera ciliosa

A twisted tale by Wendy Aeschliman


 A Dramatic Battle between a Vineand aTree, starring:

"Orange Honeysuckle" and "Grand Fir"

The Winner is Announced!  Is it the VINE or theTREE?


The Evidence:


I enjoy photography, and of course I enjoy the beauty of native plants, especially on our property which is a designated National Wildlife Federation Backyard Habitat, and an Idaho Stewardship Forest.  While working the land a couple of years ago I noticed a lovely western trumpet vine climbing up a grand fir, and photographed its flowers. But in the winter of 2009 it was discovered that the grand fir had died, and had broken at a ninety degree angle about five foot from its base.  The vine was alive and well, searching upward for anything to climb, but absolutely nothing was available in that bare area where the tree top had fallen.  We decided to twist the tree over in another direction where the vine would have opportunity to continue to climb up another tree.  The tree top was then tied in place.  While tying the tree, we noticed gnarls that were quite dramatic and unbelievable: we had never noticed them before!  The twisted gnarls told the tale of several years of struggle between the vine and the tree.  The tree had fought with apparent difficulty to keep its life force while slowly being strangled by a vine strong enough to have been used by native Americans for suspension bridges!!  (Note the scarring, and the bulbous partial embedding of the vine within the tree's bark!)  The vines encircling the expanding trunk appear to have eventually died after being incorporated within the bark, but other vine ends provided alternative routes for growth and eventual success.


Here (above) is a photo of the right angle break of the tree trunk (about 5 in diameter at this height) which had broken at a weak point and come down horizontally.

In this close up (below), the dead vine which was the strangling force is shown below the scarring, still intact but separated into individual dead strands, while other live vines had headed straight up the trunk.  (Collateral circulation or normal growth?)


There were a total of seven gnarls on the trunk, in a section about 12 feet in length.


End of Story.........So.........the winner in this story is: the vine!! 

I intend to try to take cuttings from this remarkable vine and plant along my garden fence to preserve this dramatic history and story.  (Maybe I'll have to monitor the fence!)