Wednesday Weed – Russian Vine

Every Wednesday, I hope to find a new ‘weed’ to investigate. My only criterion will be that I will not have deliberately planted the subject of our inquiry. Who knows what we will find…..

Russian Vine (Fallopia baldschuanica)

Russian Vine (Fallopia baldschuanica)

Dear Readers, I have noticed that when a plant wants to be featured in the Wednesday Weed, it makes its presence felt everywhere, and so it has been with Russian Vine. I first noticed it during my stumbling walk around the fields of Milborne St Andrew a few weeks ago, where it had grown over a fence and was intent on blocking the footpath.

IMG_4598Then, on my journeys back and forth from Surrey (where I am currently ensconced in Sutton Holiday Inn for four nights a week), I peered blearily through the window and realised that the trackside was a tumult of white flowers, tumbling over the back-gardens of Purley and Croydon like a foam-flecked wave. And, finally, when I took a walk along the unadopted road close to my house in East Finchley today, there it was again. I relented. This is a plant that wants its story told, for sure.

IMG_4727What we have here is a garden plant, originally from Asia, and known by such wonderful alternative names as Bukhara Fleeceflower and Chinese Fleecevine. However, most people will be familiar with it as Mile-a-minute plant. Many a gardener has planted one, gone indoors to make a cup of tea and come back to discover that it has taken over the shed and half of the children’s trampoline next door. Its flowers are a source of nectar for pollinators, but it has also been compared to the dreaded Leylandii Cypress for its over-enthusiastic and invasive nature. However, I am reminded that a ‘weed’ is simply a plant in the ‘wrong’ place, and so, while it can be a pain in a small garden, I would rather see Russian Vine along the edge of a railway line than the mass of wire fencing and fly-tipped building materials that it is probably covering.

IMG_4722

Russian vine was first introduced to the UK in 1894, and was first discovered ‘in the wild’ in 1936. However, it has been pointed out that the plant is rarely found far from habitation, and that many of these ‘wild’ plants might actually be rooted in gardens, albeit gardens that are ten metres away.

IMG_4724

Some of you might be thinking that you’ve heard the genus name Fallopia before in this blog, and indeed you have. Russian Vine is a relative of Japanese Knotweed and can interbreed with it. In the latest book in the superb New Naturalist series, ‘Alien Plants’, by Clive Stace and Michael Crawley, there is a very interesting discussion about how Japanese Knotweed has spread in the UK. In theory, because only female plants are present in this country, the plant shouldn’t be able to reproduce but, of course, it does. It has been found that Japanese Knotweed can hybridise with other species of Knotweed, and also with Russian Vine. Although these latter hybrids (named Fallopia x conollyana in honour of the botanist Ann Conolly who first investigated the genetics of this group) find it difficult to establish themselves, there are now three localities in which they exist, and one was first discoved in Haringey, not far from where I live, in 1987. In Flora Britannica, Richard Mabey reports that the hybrid is:

..’more elegant and less aggressive than either of its parents and has leaves shapely enough to make it a serious contender as a garden scrambler or ground-cover plant in the future. In the warm summer of 1993 it was being visited by many different species of native insect’.

Let us be grateful that this new plant seems to be taking on the gentler characteristics of its parents. If it combined the climbing ability of Russian Vine with the truculence of Japanese Knotweed we might have a candidate for a star part in a remake of The Triffids.

Russian Vine doing its 'mile-a-minute' thang...(Photo credit below)

Russian Vine doing its ‘mile-a-minute’ thang…(Photo credit below)

Photo Credits

Russian Vine (final photo on blog): “Fallopia baldschuanica 20050913 640”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fallopia_baldschuanica_20050913_640.jpg#/media/File:Fallopia_baldschuanica_20050913_640.jpg

All other photographs are copyright Vivienne Palmer

 

 

7 thoughts on “Wednesday Weed – Russian Vine

  1. Katya

    Hello, I’m wondering if this lovely vine could be related to the silver lace vine? I planted a small sprout about 15 or so years ago, and while it is a lovely lush species, it has covered my fence and migrated to the neighboring yard, I do wonder how far it will wander and cause unrest in the neighborhood! Thankfully I haven’t received any complaints after all these years…maybe because the flowers, which start blooming in early September, are so lovely and long lasting. Are you familiar with the silver lace vine?

    Reply
    1. viv_palmer_1999@yahoo.com

      Hi Katya, yes this plant is also known as Silver Lace Vine in the US. It sounds like it’s perfect for your garden (and everybody else’s 😉 )
      Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

      Reply
  2. Bronchitikat

    The thought of a Russian vine/Japanese Knotweed hybrid was terrifying, until you mentioned that it seems to be less rampageous than its parents. But I’m with you in preferring to see it taking over fences and sidings thus covering the eyesores that might be beneath.

    Reply
  3. Anne Guy

    When I was a child we had a Russian Vine growing up a house wall. One day we needed to fetch something from in the loft and couldn’t understand why we couldn’t open the loft flap! The reason we soon found out was that the vine had grown under the eaves and had run rampant all around the roofspace!! It was definitely triffid like as the stems were pure white from growing in the dark and they were very fibrous when we had to chop through them and try to remove them all! The vine was later removed as it clearly had outgrown its allocated space!

    Reply
    1. Bug Woman Post author

      It seems to be a most ambitious plant, Ann. I am impressed by it, but can’t help thinking that when people grow it in a small space they may be surprised by how enthusiastic it can be….

      Reply

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