Stop 7: The Tangled Web of Vines
Walk The Trail:
Map of Nature Trail
Fox grapes on the vine

Fox grape (Vitis labrusca), a hardy vine that thrives in sandy soils, covers large portions of the entire island of Nantucket. Fox grape vinesAlong some portions of the nature trail, it spreads as far as the eye can see. Fox grape gave Martha's Vineyard its name.

Fox grape can creep over everything in its path, and can engulf and even knock down shrubs such as bayberry (Morella pensylvanica) and red cedar (Juniperus virginiana).


Fox grape is one of three vine species that dominate the area. The trails are also lined with the dreaded poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) with its shiny three leaflets, and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) with its five leaflets arranged in a distinctive palm shape.

Virginia CreeperPoison Ivy

Vines climb in several different ways. Some twine around their supports, while other cling to them by means of tendrils, as illustrated by the Fox grape in the photo below:

Fox grape tendrils
Poison Ivy vines

Most people recognize poison ivy as a low-growing plant, but the photo to your right depicts two examples of poison ivy in its vine growth form. The thinner poison ivy vine clings to the tree trunk by means of adhesive pads, while the thicker vine twines around the tree.

By climbing on other species, vine plants gain access to sunlight and avoid investments in trunks and branches. Can you think of any disadvantages to the vining "strategy"? In the battle between the vines and the trees, will there be an ultimate winner, or will all species continue to coexist?

previous stopnext stop
Back to the start of the trail Harbor and Barrier Spit Stop 3: Beach Erosion The Ospreys Mowing and Succession Stop 6: How Plants Reproduce The Tangled Web of Vines Plants by the Pond Hidden Treasures at the Pond Wrack Lines at the Beach Folger's Salt Marsh

     The Nantucket Field Station Virtual Nature Trail is a joint effort of the following departments: Biology, Computer Science, Earth & Geographic Sciences, and ECOS. UMass Boston Home Page

     All images are (c) the photographers or UMB and may not be reproduced without permission.