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Protecting our precious places

Identifying invasive and native vines

Vines are plants that climb other vegetation to get the light they need for growth and reproduction.

They have diverse ways of climbing. Some twine around their support whereas others have sensitive tendrils, attaching roots or clinging hooks.

Native Clematis paniculata Photo: Karlene Hill

Right: The native Clematis paniculata (puawhananga) is found in lowland forests.

In the spring, sprays of large pure white flowers stand out against the dark foliage of the forest.





Many vines introduced into New Zealand for cultivation have escaped and turned into aggressive weeds.

With their vigorous growth, they strangle or smother native vegetation, becoming a major threat to our native bush, wetlands and streams.

One well known example is Old Man's Beard. Controlling such invasive vines in covenants has a positive impact on indigenous plants and wildlife.

With these vines having such detrimental effects on our environment, there is a risk that all vines in a covenant are cleared because they are thought to be invasive.

However, New Zealand has a wide range of native vines. Trevor Thompson, QEII Wairarapa Regional Representative, says these climbers have evolved as part of our ecosystems for millions of years and many native birds and invertebrates rely on the seasonal fruits, nectar from the flowers and, in some cases, foliage for food.

‘Often native climbers are seen on the edges of the forest. They play a big part in providing a “healthy edge" to keep winds from blowing unimpeded through the forest and drying it out or toppling trees,’ he says

‘A healthy edge also keeps in warmth during the winter and maintains coolness in the summer, giving the forest interior a milder, more productive climate.

‘Before controlling a vine in a covenant, it’s important to identify it before removing it.

'Is it an invasive species? Or is it one of our native vines that make such a large contribution to our biodiversity?

‘Having native vines flourishing in your covenant will not only help to improve its health but also provide you with wonderful displays of flowers and fruit.’

Identifying native vines

Many QEII covenants protect our unique native vines.

Kohia - passion vine Photo: Philip LissamanRight: The native Passiflora tetrandra (New Zealand passion vine, kohia) has pointed dark green glossy leaves and stems that coil on the forest floor and extend up into the forest canopy.

The greenish white flowers occur from mid-spring to summer and the bright orange fruit from autumn to winter.



Unfortunately, invasive species are also found in forest and wetlands protected by covenants.

There are possible funding sources available to help with controlling these weeds.

The fact that there are native and invasive vines in the same genus can make identification tricky.

The following vines are featured in the article below with their identifying characteristics and behaviour.

  • Old Man's Beard or native clematis?
  • Invasive or native jasmine?
  • Blackberry or bush lawyer?
  • Banana passionfruit or kohia?

Download the article on identifying invasive and native vines (PDF, 321KB)

For more about identifying native vines see Nature Guide to the New Zealand Forest, John Dawson and Rob Lucas, reprinted 2007.

For information on controlling invasive vines, contact your Regional Council or visit their website.

Open Space
TM Magazine No. 75, March 2009 © QEII National Trust


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