Everyone, when exploring the woods, can find several examples of “tree” or “shrub”… but can you find an example of a liana?
Look for a woody vine that is rooted in the soil, climbing up a tree or other support in order to reach the canopy — the highest point of the forest — for valuable sunlight. Darwin figured that this saved the species the trouble of putting out energy for structural integrity, allowing more resources to be allocated to growth and reproduction. Regardless, lianas gain an advantage by competition for light and sometimes by strangling the host plant or causing other physical damage. Still, these living bridges help other, more mobile species such as monkeys and squirrels, to have wider access to trees that may otherwise be too far apart for them to reach easily. The presence of a liana may even increase the stability of some host species, bolstering them against strong winds and other mechanical stressors.
I bet you can find at least one liana during your next foray into nature!
Look for these common lianas:
- poison ivy
- kudzu (pic above)
- wild grape
- Virginia creeper
Of course, lianas grow most profusely in the tropical rain forests of the world. However, if you live in or have driven through much of the southern USA, you most likely have seen a scene like the picture above — Kudzu vine taking over, creating strange and creepy green shapes.
For an AWESOME printable/readable text with pics on lianas and their unique growth patterns, Click Here!
— Thanks for the pic, Kudzu liana taking over an old home in Mississippi,
by NatalieMaynor on Flickr —