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Native Crossvine is a Habitat Plant

I thought crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) was indestructible. It climbs by tendrils then attaches to trees with even more with roots to happily grow upward. Yet a couple weeks ago most of it just pulled away from the tulip poplar it was growing on in my front yard. It was over 30+ high! I managed to roughly tuck the fallen vines around each other so they stayed off the ground and weren't dangling anymore. I see birds darting in and out of the big tangle of vines so I’ll just leave them that way.

You can see a bare tree where there were once vines climbing over two stories up! (photo on left now and on right from last spring)

I’m pretty sure this situation is somehow related to the hard freeze we had for days back in December, my squirrel friends, or a combination of both weakening its hold on the tree. I suspect the freeze played a big role because crossvine dies back to the ground in colder climates, but that my resident squirrels also “helped” when they used the vine for shelter.

Right before the big freeze in December I thought it strange that this guy was spending a lot of time in and around the vines. I couldn't know he had his winter nest behind the vines!

The dwindling Atlanta tree canopy also figures into this. There’s only a handful of homes with front yard overstory trees around me. Over the years most of them have been removed or fallen, but not replaced. This means my leaning tulip polar and loblolly pine stand out on my street and get a lot of action. I’ve posted multiple times about the squirrels who are born and grow up in that poplar tree.

This photo taken last spring shows just two of the many squirrels that were born in the tulip poplar in my front yard. It is their home.

Squirrels breed in late winter so it appears an industrious squirrel was just padding his winter nest between the crossvine and tree. I remember seeing a squirrel with leaves in his mouth right before the big freeze and thinking he somehow knew the weather forecast - but I thought he was going to a nest higher in the tree. The squirrels must have detached the roots just enough for the whole vine to be weakened.

When the crossvine flopped off the tree it exposed a large winter squirrel nest! Fortunately it wasn't breeding season yet.

I have crossvine growing in other areas of my yard. I keep it cut back on my mailbox where it also gives birds a tiny bit of shelter.

This photo was taken in the spring – we thought attaching the gargoyle to our fancy copper mailbox would add a little quirky fun to our otherwise uninteresting street.

Crossvine is a fantastic native habitat vine to add to the landscape. It’s a sun-seeking perennial evergreen that will quickly scale a trellis, fence, arbor, or large tree. It’s assertive, but manageable in a small yard. It would be a great vine to let ramble horizontally as a groundcover on a sunny slope. Some experts believe that when crossvine blooms it has more flowers per square inch than any other vine. I think this is why the crossvine flowers are so popular with hummingbirds and other pollinators, including native bees. It’s also a host for the rustic sphinx moth. Crossvine also offers nesting and shelter for wildlife including birds, tree frogs, and apparently squirrels if they don’t gnaw off the tendrils attaching the vine to the tree!

I took this photo the day before Atlanta's big freeze back in December when I watched all the squirrels around my yard frantically chewing off bits of evergreen plants for their nests. I now realize this one is at the scene of the crossvine crime!

I’m confidant my decades-old crossvine will recover from this setback and climb back up the tree during the growing season!

I was so focused on showing the tangle of crossvine that was at the base of the tree that I didn’t see the squirrel anxiously wondering what I was doing near "his" home tree.

This is the same squirrel on the other side of the tangle! Sometimes it's hard not to appreciate that I'm just a visitor in my rewilded yard!

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