Texas Natives – October, 2007
Some of the most hardy and adapted native plants are sometimes misunderstood in the garden. Honeyvine (Cynanchum laeve), also referred to as bluevine or sandvine, could be easily mistaken for an undesirable invasive weed.
Native to the eastern third of Texas and the eastern half of the U.S, this deciduous perennial occurs in low moist sites in open fields or shaded woods. As soil temperatures warm up in early summer, honeyvine breaks ground and begins its rapid twining journey of growth on anything available to climb. If left unchecked the plant will twine and climb over adjacent plants in search of an optimum sunlight exposure.
The attractive leaves are glossy and heart-shaped with prominent veins. Clusters of white, mildly fragrant flowers appear in the leaf axils from July through September, followed by long, light green seed pods. From personal experience in the garden, honeyvine can grow to about 15 feet or more in a single growing season, developing a semi-woody base. Not commonly available in the nursery trade, honeyvine is easy to propagate from seed sown directly outdoors in fall or by rooted cuttings.
Being in the milkweed plant family (Asclepiadaceae), plants will usually attract a small population of the bright yellow ‘oleander’ aphids, but they seem to be the only pest issue associated with this plant. According to Dale Clark of the Dallas County Lepidopterist Society, monarch butterflies will use honeyvine as a host plant during the summer months when their preferred species of milkweed are scarce. The flowers of honeyvine are also a valuable nectar source for several species of bees and pollinating flies. Plants are reported to be resistant to deer.
Honeyvine could be easily trained and nurtured on a fence, trellis, or arbor to provide a unique ornamental vine tough enough to take on the heat and drought of summer.
About the author: Tina Dombrowski is the Director of Horticulture at Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park, Dallas. She has a particular interest in Texas native plants, butterflies, pollinating insects and their interconnected histories. Visit www.texasdiscoverygardens.org for more.