Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The term vine was originally a term for the plant on which grapes grew, from the word for wine (Greek oinos), for which grapes were grown. In American usage "vine" is now a generic term for all climbing plants. In British English "The vine" is specifically the Grape vine ; other vines are termed "climbers".
Certain plants always grow as vines, while a few grow as vines only part of the time. For instance, Poison ivy and Bittersweet can grow as low shrubs when support is not available, but will become vines when support is available.
A vine is a growth form based on long, flexible stems. This has two purposes. A vine may use rock exposures, other plants, or other supports for growth rather than investing energy in a lot of supportive tissue, enabling the plant to reach sunlight with a minimum investment of energy. This has been a highly-successful growth form for plants such as Kudzu and Japanese honeysuckle, both of which are invasive exotics in parts of North America. Conversely, there are some tropical vines that develop skototropism and grow away from the light, a type of negative phototropism.
The vine growth form may also enable plants to colonize large areas quickly, even without climbing high. This is the case with Periwinkle and Ground-ivy .
One odd group of vining plants is the fern genus Lygodium, called climbing ferns. Here, the plant's stem does not climb, but rather the fronds (leaves) do. The fronds unroll from the tip, and theoretically never stop growing. In the meantime, they can form thickets as they unroll over other plants, rockfaces, and fences.
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