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What Is the Difference Between a Bine and a Vine?

I have "green-fingers," and love my garden. I enjoy watching wildlife and being outdoors.

Vine vs Bine: What's the Difference?

Sometimes the words bine and vine are used interchangeably, but they are different. The differences relate to the way they grow and hold on to things. The words are often misused as people assume there's no difference between them.

Vine: A vine plant climbs using tendrils or suckers to cling onto a supporting pole. Its stem grows vertically, all the twisting and gripping is done by the tendrils.

Bine: A bine plant wraps its stem (not tendrils) in a helix around a supporting structure. The bine's stem is the flexible, twisting part of the plant unlike the vine. A bine has stiff hairs to provide structure and solidity as it grows.

A grapevine has curly tendrils.

A grapevine has curly tendrils.

What's Growing in Your Garden? Vines or Bines?

You can find species of both vines and bines that grow either clockwise or anti-clockwise. The direction of spiral depends on the individual variety or cultivar of a plant.

An observant gardener is able to pick out the key features of difference, and distinguish between the two types of climber. Once alerted to these, you'll wonder how you ever imagined the two types of climbing plant were similar. Botany for Gardeners explains the science behind these differences. This well-written and fascinating book is aimed at non-gardeners as well as green-fingered folks.

What Vine Plants Can You Name?

The botanical definition of a vine is "a plant whose stem requires support and which climbs by tendrils or twining or creeps along the ground."

If asked to suggest a vine, most people would think of a grapevine. They have seen pictures of grapes hanging from the plant and perhaps noticed some tendrils. If you see a grapevine growing you will notice that this climbing plant uses tendrils, suckers and runners to cling onto a frame or nearby tree branches as it climbs and grows upwards.

Only the tendrils, runners and suckers of a vine plant grow in a cyclical or entwining form. The main stem of the plant grows upwards without twisting in shape.

Columbine flower in full bloom. Bine or a vine? The clue is in the name.

Columbine flower in full bloom. Bine or a vine? The clue is in the name.

What Kind of Bine Plants Grow in Gardens?

A bine is a plant that uses an entwining stem or flexible shoot for support. An example of a garden or back-yard bine is the columbine flower. Bines use stiff hairs on their main stem as anchors (and not tendrils like vines). The circular climbing action of a bine is carried out by the stem itself. It encircles the item which it is climbing in order to gain support as it grows upwards. Thus its stem is a spiral shape unlike the vertical one of a vine.

Bines Can Be Clockwise or Anti-clockwise

Bines can be subdivided into those that always have stems twisting in a clockwise direction and those which always grow anticlockwise. These different directions of growth remain true on whichever side of the Equator they are grown. Some common examples of clockwise bines are bindweed (Convolvulus or Morning Glory) and the runner bean. An example of an anti-clockwise bine is the European honeysuckle (Lonicera species).

This is a typical bine plant; its stem is curling around the support, rather than any tendrils.

This is a typical bine plant; its stem is curling around the support, rather than any tendrils.

5 Reasons Why and How Plants Climb

From an article by Paul Simons, The Guardian 04/13/2002

  1. Hops and honeysuckle coil clockwise, while bindweed and runner beans coil anti-clockwise. No one knows why.
  2. Hops use tiny grappling hooks on their stems, rather like a mountaineer's crampons, to get a better grip on their support.
  3. Ivy clambers up steep slopes with 'instant' roots, which sprout out of its stems when it comes into contact with a hard surface.
  4. Some tendrils are more touch-sensitive than our skin. Charles Darwin found that a 0.00025g thread of wool drawn along a tendril of bur-cucumber made it coil.
  5. The world's fastest tendrils are the passionflowers Passiflora gracilis, P. sictoides and the gourd Cyclanthera pedata; they coil within 20-23 seconds after touching.

Gazebo and Trellis Provide Support for Climbing Plants

Climbers like bines and vines grow strongly once they've found a structure to give them support. This can be man-made, such as a trellis or fence, or it could be natural like the branches of an existing tree. If you live in an area that gets strong winds, it's a good idea to provide extra support for your climbing plants.

Vines and bines are better able to survive storms if they are planted next to something sturdy like a gazebo frame or garden trellis with concrete foundations. Lightweight bamboo poles or wire mesh trellis can be used, but the flimsy nature of this type of support means they're unlikely to last beyond a single season, and so need replacing every year.

Wisteria is a bine. It is often used as a climber for gazebos and pergolas.

Wisteria is a bine. It is often used as a climber for gazebos and pergolas.

Choose a Climber Suited to Your Climate

There are such a wide variety of bines and vines that there is one to suit virtually all climates. Vines are particularly adaptable and many are able to grow as ground plants if there is nothing immediately available for them to climb. With their tendrils able to grip onto the tiniest of cracks, vines can grow on rock faces and brick walls. This has made a common vine, the ivy plant, a nuisance species in many parts of the world.

Many climbers have accumulated both a proper name and a slang name which illustrates the way people feel about them. For example Convolvulus is known as both Morning Glory (for its beautiful flowers) and as Bindweed (for its tendency to strangle other plants). Sometimes this climbing tendency can be used to good effect as camouflage. An ugly fence or a dead tree that has not yet been felled can be quickly hidden under a fast growing climbing honeysuckle.

How to Plant a Clematis

Beer Uses Bines, Wine Uses Vines

To help you remember the difference between a bine and a vine, think of beer and wine making. Hops, which are used to flavor beer, are an example of a bine. Grapes, which are used to make wine, are an example of a vine. The alliteration of B for beer and B for bine will help you remember which is which. Hop plants have firm stems and the plant becomes quite bushy. They anchor themselves by wrapping their whole stem around the supporting frame. Grape vines send out tendrils like little fingers that wrap around a supporting structure.Their stems remain relatively straight and do not carry the weight of the plant.

Insect Predators on Bine and Vine Crops

Being able to tell your bines and vines apart also helps with pest control. Insect predators are usually species specific. Ones that favor vines will not normally be found on bines. There are chemical pesticides to control most predators, but if you prefer organic methods then crop rotation changing between bines and vines is a good tactic.

There are also biological methods of pest control. In some, insect predators are deliberately infected with either a parasitic mite (bine predators) or a nematode worm (vine predators) which eventually kills them. Another method of biological control is to use a creature that eats the plant’s predator, but does no harm itself to the plant. An example of this is using ladybird larvae on vine crops. They eat the aphids that would otherwise damage the vines.

This is a typical vine tendril. Tendrils of vine plants grow either clockwise or anti-clockwise depending on the species.

This is a typical vine tendril. Tendrils of vine plants grow either clockwise or anti-clockwise depending on the species.

Is Wisteria a Bine or a Vine?

A wisteria plant is part of the legume or pea family. It is a perennial woody climbing bine. It has a strong stem that twists as it grows and uses stiff hairs to grip its supporting wall or pergola. Wisteria blooms are lilac to blue in color and have a delicate perfume. These attractive plants grow well in Mediterranean-type climates. i.e. those that have full sun with light rainfall.

Is Poison Ivy a Vine or a Bine?

Toxicodendron radicans or poison ivy is not a bine or a vine. It is a parasitic plant and uses a host plant for support and nourishment. It is a member of the same family of plants as the cashew nut. A poison ivy creeper attaches itself to a supporting plant not by tendrils but by aerial roots. These embed themselves into the host and provide food to the ivy plant. Poison ivy is a common weed in Asia and North America. It causes contact dermatitis with severe itching and blistering.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.