Wildland weeds



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WILDLAND WEEDS

7

W

hile problematic and highly



invasive non-native plants 

are well known in Florida

(FLEPPC, 2005), other non-native plants

may remain obscure or become locally

invasive in small geographic areas or sin-

gle locations. At Archbold Biological

Station (ABS) in Lake Placid (Highlands

County), Florida, flame vine (Pyrostegia



venusta) was planted at seven locations in

the northeast section of the original prop-

erty circa 1936 at the edge of scrub habi-

tat (ABS Archives). Today, those plants

still persist and have spread beyond the

original introduction point into scrub

habitat. Flame vine is easily propagated

from fragments (Watkins and Sheehan,

1975), and the area with the highest den-

sity of flame vine at ABS is an area that is

frequently disked for firebreaks. 

Flame vine is an evergreen, woody

vine native to Brazil that produces one of

the most beautiful flowers in the world

(Menninger, 1970). Its showy orange

flowers open in the winter (February to

April), making it a potentially popular

and highly conspicuous landscape plant.

Flame vine grows rapidly, covering trees,

fences, and other structures (Whistler,

2000). Its leaves are compound, bifoliate

or trifoliate, with three part tendrils that

facilitate its ability to climb. Flame vine

thrives in open areas, is drought tolerant,

and appears to tolerate a wide variety of

soils (Riffle, 1998). In Florida, this

species spreads vegetatively and is not

known to produce seeds (Watkins and

Sheehan, 1975).

Flame vine is promoted as a land-

scape plant in Florida (Black, 2001), but

plantings are recommended with caution

because the vine can cover and strangle

trees (Gilman, 1999). It is documented

from only Brevard and Broward Counties

in Florida (Wunderlin and Hansen,

2003). However, flame vine has been

observed in many areas of south-central

Florida growing along fence lines, orange

groves, snags, power line poles, and old

homesites, often covering extensive areas

along the ground and in the canopy. 

A P

LANT


T

O

B



E

W

ATCHED



Flame vine (Pyrostegia venusta) is

being watched by the FLEPPC

Invasives List Committee for

further spread into natural

areas. It has been observed

spreading slowly in a few urban

parks in central Florida. If you

have seen this species in other

conservation lands, please 

submit a record of the occur-

rence to the FLEPPC database

(www.fleppc.org/database). 

If the record represents a new

county of occurrence, please

make a herbarium specimen as 

a voucher for the Plant Atlas

(www.plantatlas. usf.edu). Tips

on making vouchers can be

found via a link at the FLEPPC

database introduction page.

– K.C. Burks  

List Committee Chair

Flame Vine (Pyrostegia venusta):

An invasive plant

of mature scrub and potentially other natural habitats in Florida



by Jeffrey T. Hutchinson, Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, University of Florida

The flower of flame vine has been described as the most beautiful flower in the world.

PHO


TOS BY JEFFREY T

. HUT


CHINSON

8

FALL 2005

The author has observed the vine in 

Desoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands, and

Okeechobee Counties, but there are no

reports of flame vine invading natural areas

in Florida. 

In January 2005, Tony Pernas and

Jonathan Taylor mapped the distribution of

Old World Climbing Fern, Melaleuca,

Brazilian pepper and Australian pines from

Lake Okeechobee northward to Orlando.

These systematic reconnaissance flights

(SRF) are part of a joint mapping effort

between the South Florida Water

Management District and the National Park

Service. During these flights flame vine was

readily identified from the air due to its

bright inflorescence and its presence in the

canopy of trees. The observers noted that

the species was particularly abundant in the

Tampa/St. Petersburg area. Flame vine was

not mapped during the flights but possibly

can be added in future mapping efforts.

Flame vine is listed as a weed in Peru

(Holm et al., 1979) and documented as

invasive in Tanzania after fragments were

discarded along the edge of a tropical for-

est (Binggeli, 2000). The potential range of

this plant in the United States includes

warmer regions such as peninsular Florida,

southern Louisiana, southeastern Texas,

southwestern Arizona, and coastal

California (Gilman, 1999). If ambient tem-

peratures drop below -2.0 C, flame vine is

damaged or top-killed (Menninger, 1970). 

Characteristics of Flame Vine in

Long Unburned Scrub Habitat

At ABS, flame vine is prominent in the

northeast section of scrub habitat that has

not been burned in > 75 years. It spreads

by vegetative growth both horizontally and

vertically, climbing into the canopy with

clasping tendrils. The vine encircles and

covers scrub vegetation such as scrub pal-

metto (Sabal etonia), scrub hickory (Carya

floridana), and various species of scrub

oaks (Quercus spp.). Flame vine can form a

near complete canopy over shrubs and

trees. At ABS, flame vine quickly invades

gaps created from tree fall or wind damage,

often forming > 80% ground coverage. The

main roots lie prostrate along the ground

or just under the debris or duff layer with

each node developing a single descending

tap root with multiple fine roots and one to

multiple ascending stems. The three-part

tendrils attach to limbs, leaves, bark, and

other structures that allow the plant to

climb into the canopy. The root system of

flame vine consists of a matrix from above-

ground nodes that are spaced ca. 15.0 –

90.0 cm apart, with roots growing over 

one another. 

At ABS, continuous roots were meas-

ured in excess of 22 m in length with

numerous stems emerging from crowns

along the main root and ascending into the

canopy. Several sprouts occur at each

crown growing vertically along adjacent

stems and other vegetation, or horizontally

along the ground forming new crown

nodes. Some vines pulled from the canopy

were > 15 m in length, while the height of

the surrounding vegetation was < 9 m.

Once flame vine reached the top of the

canopy, it grew horizontally along the top

of the canopy or dropped over the edge.



Invasive Potential of Flame Vine

At ABS, flame vine coverage increased

from less than a few square meters at seven

point locations along the boundary fence

line in 1936 to 1.3 ha in 2003 based on

area coverage estimated with GPS. The

average annual rate of spread was 0.02 ha

(200 m2) per year over the last 68 years.

Most of the coverage was both vertical and

horizontal, but only horizontal coverage

was calculated. From April, 2002 to

October, 2003 more than 11,500 stems

and roots were physically removed from

the ground, sub-canopy, and canopy lay-

ers, and the root-crown nodes were treated

with herbicide. However, flame vine is still

present as numerous nodes went undetect-

ed during treatment. 



Flame vine growing over scrub vegetation at Archbold Biological Station.

Resprouts of flame vine following a prescribed burn.

Treatment of flame vine requires that all nodes be treat-

ed with herbicide.

WILDLAND WEEDS

9

Observations at ABS indicate that

flame vine spreads slowly and does not

appear to be a major threat to natural areas

unless it is planted near or adjacent to a

natural area and allowed to persist. Since

flame vine spreads exclusively by vegeta-

tive growth and no sexual reproduction

has been observed in Florida, the vine

should not be planted within 100 meters

of any natural area in Florida.

Control of Flame Vine

Flame vine re-sprouted within 7 days

from all root nodes that were cut (n = 25).

Prescribed burning resulted in 19

resprouts (76%; n = 25) with resprouts

being observed after 25 days. This indi-

cates that flame vine is tolerant to fire. The

use of fire was successful in removing the

aboveground portion of the plant and

burning off the duff layer, making subse-

quent herbicide treatments easier.

Garlon 4 (triclopyr, 10% product)

mixed with Veg Oil (90%) was successful

in controlling flame vine. No resprouts (n

= 25) were recorded for stems cut and

treated at the node with 10% Garlon 4.

Vines growing vertically above the cut

were not treated and died. However,

resprouts were observed on untreated

nodes > 0.75 m from the treated node

attached to the same root, indicating that

herbicide translocation may not occur

from node to node. Thus, every node, pos-

sibly thousands per hectare, must be treat-

ed for complete control. 

Foliar spraying of flame vine along a

fence line in the northeast section of ABS

with Roundup (glyphosate, 3% product)

or Weedmaster (2,4-D and dicamba, 3%

product) was successful in defoliating the

vine, but the vine resprouted in < 6

months. A second treatment along the

fence line with each herbicide again result-

ed in defoliation, but subsequent resprout-

ing occurred again within 6 months. Thus,

foliar spraying is not recommended unless

followed with herbicide treatment of the

nodes.


Resprouting Potential and

Growth Rate

Stems (n = 25), roots (n = 25), and

nodes (n = 25) were placed in sand and

exposed to four conditions: 1) direct sun-

light, 2) 75% canopy cover, 3) direct sun-

light and watered daily, and 4) 75%

canopy cover and watered daily, to evalu-

ate the sprouting potential of flame vine. In

treatments under shade or watered, all

crown nodes re-sprouted within one week,

but no stems or roots re-sprouted. For

treatments placed in the open sunlight and

not watered, no sprouts were recorded for

stems, roots, or nodes, indicating that

flame vine nodes need moisture or shade

to re-sprout.

Vegetative growth from nodes was

observed within 6-7 days. Tendrils were

documented at 32 days following planting.

Multiple sprouts were recorded for most

nodes with the highest number of sprouts

for a single node being 18. The highest

growth rate recorded was 12.7 cm per

week for a single sprout from a node that

was under shade and watered. The highest

growth rate for a sprout receiving water

and exposed to sun was 10.6 cm per week,

while the highest growth rate for a sprout

receiving no water and placed in the shade

was 10.0 cm per week (Table 1). Based on

these results, the nodes of flame vine could

easily become established at other loca-

tions at ABS during disking, especially

during the rainy season. At ABS, numerous

flame vine plants occur along a 1.2 km

stretch of frequently disked fire-lane that is

> 0.6 km from where the initial plants were

planted. Similar growth rates were

observed for resprouts that were cut or

burned. After seven months, the growth

rates of flame vine after cutting (n = 25) or

burning (n = 25) indicated that it can grow

to lengths > 4.0 m (or ca. 14 cm per week). 

Conclusion

At ABS, flame vine is locally invasive

in long unburned scrub where it was

established as a landscape plant in 1936. It

occurs in ruderal sites in Highlands and

other counties in south-central Florida,

but dispersal is limited to human introduc-

tion and vegetative growth. Once estab-

lished, flame vine spreads vertically creat-

ing a closed canopy cover and altering the

structure and composition of the area it

has invaded. Its horizontal matrix of roots

and nodes makes control very difficult

once the plant is established. However,

horizontal spread of the plant is slow pos-

sibly due to the fact that it does not pro-

duce seeds in Florida. At ABS, the spread

of flame vine is more invasive vertically



Resprouts of flame vine along a frequently disked fire-

lane at ABS.

Table 1.  Weekly growth rates of flame vine under different light and moisture conditions.

Weekly Growth

Growth Conditions

Rate (cm)

Shade (75%) and Water

12.7

Open Sunlight and Water



10.6

Shade and No Water

10.0

Open Sunlight and No Water



0.0

…continued on page 11

WILDLAND WEEDS

11

than horizontally as it creates a shaded understory that limits sun-

light to other plants and may inhibit fire. The horizontal rate of

spread calculated from ABS of ca. 6.9 m / year was less than the

spread documented in Tanzania of 10.0 m / year in a tropical

hammock (Binggeli, 2000). 

Flame vine is adaptable to a wide array of habitat types from

tropical forests (Binggeli, 2000) to xeric habitats such as scrub,

but appears to require moisture or shade for initial establishment.

The extensive canopy it creates forms mesic-like habitat below in a

xeric ecosystem that may facilitate vegetative spread due to increased

soil moisture. It resprouts robustly following cutting and burning,

but can be controlled using Garlon 4 (10% product) as long as

each node is treated. 

At ABS, the spread of flame vine was probably facilitated by

the spread of root fragments with nodes during disking of fire-

lanes. Numerous sprouts are common along the fire-lanes in the

northeast section of ABS. Binggeli (2000) noted that discarded

fragments of flame vine covered a section of tropical hammock

within 1 year of the fragments being discarded. In planters, small

fragments with nodes sprouted within a week under moist or

shaded conditions. Thus, mechanical treatment such as disking

may spread plant fragments such as nodes that develop and

spread into natural areas. Flame vine exhibits the potential to

become a problematic plant in xeric habitat, and possibly tropical

hardwood hammocks and other mesic habitats if it becomes a

highly popular landscape plants. 

The invasive potential of flame vine in natural areas is mod-

erate if it is planted nearby, and eradication is difficult to achieve,

even for an area as small as 1.3 ha. Flame vine is not problematic

on a landscape level like other species of invasive vines in Florida

such as Old World climbing fern (Lygodium microphyllum), skunk

vine (Paederia foetida), air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera), or rosary

pea (Abrus precatorius). However, in the ever increasing urban-

wildland interface that occurs as Florida is rapidly developed, it is

likely that more land managers and naturalists will face increased

numbers of non-native plants such as flame vine spreading from

urban into natural areas. 



For more information, contact Jeffrey Hutchinson at the Center for Aquatic and

Invasive Plants, 352-392-9981, jthutchinson@ifas.ufl.edu

Binggeli P. 2000. The East Usambaras (Tanzania) - The pearl of Africa. Aliens 10: 14-15.

Available on line at: http://members.lycos.co.uk/WoodyPlantEcology/invasive/aliens.htm 

Black, R. J. 2001. Vines of Florida. Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Circular

860. University of Florida, Gainesville. 16 pp. 

FLEPPC. 2005. List of Florida’s Invasive Species. Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council.

Internet: http://www.fleppc.org/05list.htm.

Gilman, E. F. 1999. Pyrostegia venusta. Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Fact

Sheet FPS-496. University of Florida, Gainesville. 3 pp.

Holm, L. G. J. V. Pancho, J. P. Herberger and D. L. Plucknett. 1979. A geographical atlas

of world weeds. Krieger Publishing, Florida.

Menninger, E. A. 1970. Flowering vines of the World. Hearthside Press Incorporated,

N.Y. 410 pp.

Riffle, R. L. 1998. The Tropical Look: An Encyclopedia of Dramatic Landscape Plants.

Timber Press, Portland, Oregon. 428 pp.

Watkins, J. V., and T. J. Sheehan. 1975. Florida Landscape Plants. University of Florida

Press, Gainesville. 420 pp.

Whistler, W. A. 2000. Tropical Ornamentals. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon. 542 pp.

Wunderlin, R. P., and B. F. Hansen. 2003. Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants

(http://www.plantatlas.usf.edu/).[S. M. Landry and K. N. Campbell (application develop-

ment), Florida Center for Community Design and Research.] Institute for Systematic

Botany, University of South Florida, Tampa.



Flame Vine continued from page 9

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