Members of the plant kingdom have made some wonderful adaptations in their quest to succeed. Some have grown tall, fast, occupied unfavourable habitats or provided attractions for pollinators. Trees build cell upon cell to create mighty towers but climbers reach the canopy without having to expend all that effort, instead using trees as scaffolds.
Climbers attach themselves by a variety of methods; by simply spiralling around the host trunk, by attaching tendrils, by thorns as Bougainvillea do or by suckers as in the case of Ivy. Spiralling climbers work on the the touch sense known as Thigmotropism. When the stem of the climber touches a tree trunk it reacts by producing cells on the outer radius of its stem so that it begins to curve inward. This stimulus has been demonstrated to produce additional cells within a minute.
Climbers within a forest may reach 50 metres or more so that its leaves are collecting that most desired commodity- sunlight. Once acquired it can photosynthesise and produce sugars which it sends to its roots for further development and reinforcement.
In a stupendous demonstration of simple hydraulic action the climber pumps water all the way from ground level right to the uppermost leaves. If you cut a forest vine you will most likely get a stream of fresh water issuing out.
In the garden, climbers are generally more subdued and certainly more colourful. You can purchase climbers whose appeal lies in floral displays (wisteria), in perfume (jasmine) or in ability to cover (ivy). Breeders are continually developing new cultivars so keep an eye out for interesting climbers.
One of our favourites is Star Jasmine, a glossy foliaged and highly perfumed climber that is suited to most positions and locations.