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Do Vines Kill Trees? (6 Things You Need to Know)

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Many homeowners do not know how to deal with massive vines creeping up their trees. Small vines beneath the roots probably will not cause problems, but climbing vines that wrap around the trunk and branches may.

Do vines kill trees?

Vine growth on trees is guaranteed to result in at least some structural harm. When vines climb a tree, they attach themselves somehow to the bark, which can cause branches to snap under too much weight. Also, the vines increase the tree’s surface area, making it more vulnerable to wind, snow, and ice loads.

If you are looking for advice on dealing with a tree being used as a host by vines, you have come to the right place. Keep reading!

Do Vines Kill Trees?

Vines take advantage of trees’ structure by growing up them. They use the tree for its sturdy base, secure limbs, and advantageous height. The vines receive a distinct benefit, whereas trees generally have the opposite problem.

Parasitic vine wrapped around tree trunk in tropical forest

1. Weight

The weight of a climbing vine can increase significantly over time. Because of this, branches may break, and eventually, the extra weight may be too much for the trunk to support.

When it rains or snows, a vine that has colonized a tree becomes extremely heavy. This excessively large mass has the potential to snap branches and even bring down entire trees. 

Moreover, vine weight can increase a tree’s instability during a hurricane or tropical storm.

Heavy twining vines can also deform the branches of a tree, making it impossible for the tree to grow in a healthy and robust manner.

2. Structural Bark Damage

Climbing vines often stick to the wood like glue. When the vines are eventually removed from the tree, significant sections of bark might be ripped off. 

The inner bark, called phloem, and the more sensitive cambium are left exposed, leaving the tree susceptible to desiccation, illness, and eventual weakness. 

  • The cambium cell layer is where the tree trunk expands. In reaction to hormones transported in the phloem and nutrients from the leaves, it sheds its old bark and grows new wood yearly.
  • The phloem, or inner bark, is the layer beneath the bark. The phloem carries nutrients from the leaves to the tree’s roots and trunk.

The degree of danger to the tree’s well-being is proportional to the size of the problems on its bark. If the bark is severely damaged, the tree may eventually die.

3. Moisture

vine wrapped around tree trunk in tropical forest

The tree will have to compete with extensive vine systems for the limited resources available from the substrate, such as water and nutrients. 

Climbers, such as ivy and many others, grow stronger and quicker than many delicate tree species because they have lower survival demands, adapt better to external conditions, and can withstand harsher environments.

The tree that provided support and was the host for the climber may, in the end, be reduced to nothing more than a lifeless skeleton since it will not receive sufficient nutrients.

4. Diseases

Aerial roots of vining plants that penetrate bark serve to entrap water there. When there is a lot of moisture close to the bark, fungi can quickly colonize the area and cause deterioration.

The presence of vines wrapping around the tree creates a severe risk to its health since they promote moss and mold growth.

Also, rodents and insects can take cover under the dense canopies created by vine curtains.

5. Strangling

golden pothos liana plant climbing on jungle tree trunk, tropical forest plant jungle vines bush isolated on white background

If allowed to continue growing unchecked, climbing vines will gradually smother and strangle the tree they are attached to, ultimately leading to its demise. 

The phloem of a tree can be constricted by climbing vines if they wrap firmly around the trunk or branches. Phloem is a thin layer of living tissue just below the bark, and it is this layer’s primary function to carry nutrients from the leaves to the roots.

Climbing vines have the effect of “strangling” trees because they prevent the trees’ normal flow of nourishment.

6. Lack of Sun

Vine plants are typically deciduous. Their thick foliage can block the light from all sides, from the ground to the top of the tree’s crown.

Light is used in photosynthesis, which results in a chemical energy release in the form of sugars. In places that do not get enough sunlight during the day, the tree’s rate of photosynthesis will decrease.

Trees are autotrophs, which means they make their own nutrition. They rely on photosynthesis to convert water, sunshine, and carbon dioxide into oxygen and, ultimately, sugars that the plant uses as fuel.

When a tree’s branches are shaded from the sun for too long, they die and fall off the tree. As a result, the tree’s ability to use its resources is diminished.

Climbing vine around tree trunk in the forest

Do All Vines Kill Trees?

Simply put, absolutely. It is merely that some vines are quicker than others at it. Generally speaking, vines and trees need their own space to flourish. 

Avoid letting fast-growing or evergreen vines take over your trees since they are among the most damaging vine species.  

The following are examples of some of the most deadly tree-climbing vines:

  1. English ivy
  2. Japanese honeysuckle
  3. Chinese wisteria
  4. Kudzu

Vine ground cover, such as English ivy, forms a dense mat around a tree’s roots, and its leaves cover the root collar. This sets up a system where water can pool around the base of the tree and promote the growth of mold and rot.

Invasive Japanese honeysuckle drastically alters forest structures by outcompeting native species for soil moisture, nutrition, and sunlight. These climbers are a sight to behold, as they dwarf everything else in the area and engulf even huge trees.

Kudzu is another example of a fast-growing invasive plant that completely covers the ground and blocks out the sun, killing off everything in its path, from native grasses to fully-grown trees.

Wisteria is just one type of the various circulating vines that may be found climbing up and around trees. This vine either suffocates or girdles the tree, preventing it from growing and expanding.

Remember, you should always examine the qualities of a creeper before you plant it.  

Which Vines Are the Best for Your Trees?

Annual or slow-growing vines are your best bet if you want to decorate tree trunks with climbers.

Vine species, including clematis, passionflower, crossvine, and even poison ivy, can be controlled because of their slow growth rates. However, you must be vigilant to keep them under control.

Poison Ivy vine growing on a tree

How to Remove Vines from the Tree?

You should learn how to remove vines from trees if they are causing damage to your property’s trees. The objective is to eliminate the vines without harming the tree.

Do not attempt to yank the vines away from the tree. Doing so could result in the bark being severely damaged or even stripped off. 

Instead, remove the vines by severing their bases from the tree’s trunk. To cut through thicker vines, you might require a saw. The vine’s nutrient supply is therefore cut off. The vines will eventually dry up and die.

The next step after cutting the vines is to pull up the roots. This is most easily done when the soil is damp from recent watering or rainfall. 

Remove any lingering vines or other debris surrounding the tree’s base, then add two inches of mulch.

Final Thoughts

Climbers are a frequent form of plant invasion that can quickly take over a tree. From the roots to the crown of the tree, they spread upward. While some find vines lovely to look at, others would prefer not to have any vegetation on their trees.

While people may have different takes on the vine, they are ultimately wondering about the same thing: do vines kill trees? I hope the information provided here has helped answer this question and provided some guidance for dealing with the vines covering your trees.


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