On the Secret Path today:
When a climbing vine casts its tip out and out but finds nothing to grab, it will curve round and grab itself.
That’s what’s happened here. You can see the loop at the bottom of the photo, and how it continues as a younger, greener “switchback” still counter-clockwising up its earlier self.
The vine’s goal is to aim for sunlight by the most expedient means, which in this case is its own body.
(There’s a inspirational metaphor here, I’m sure. Something about self-reliance.)
At first glance I thought, ugh, more bindweed. But this isn’t bindweed, it’s milkweed: milkvine vine / Cynanchum laeve. Different genus, but same family as the “real” milkweed species people plant on purpose. Milkweed vines tend to . . . volunteer. Before I learned the vine is just as tasty to Monarch caterpillars as is the “real” milkweed, I’d already been yanking these thuggy twinings off my fence and shrubs for years.
Milkweed vine is blooming now, but in such a small way you have to look close. Funny how tiny white flowers can morph into big, fat, smooth, pendulous pods by autumn. The pods are most noticeable after leaves wither, which is the just-right time to split the pods and free the fluffy, fluffy seeds.
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Other names for milkweed vine:
climbing milkweed, honeyvine, honeyvine milkweed, sandvine, bluevine, and synonyms, Ampelamus albidus and Ampelamus laevis.
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Here’s the excellent plant portrait at Illinois Wildflowers, which includes a list of faunal associations and a photo of the pod.
#urbannature #nativeplants #milkweed #milkweedformonarchs #milkweedvine