Darrell Blackwelder: What is cow-itch vine?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 29, 2024

There is a colorful vine in our neighborhood showing out now with colorful orange blooms. The trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) is now visible along roadways, fences and trees. The vine, also known as cow itch, trumpet vine, Devils shoestring and Hellvine, is native to our area, but has also naturalized also in the northern states.

The vine acquired the name as cow-itch vine because the sap from the leaves and stems often causes skin irritation. The vine is considered somewhat of a weed because of its ability to grow vigorously almost anywhere and can reach a length of over 30 feet. It easily adjusts to trees, telephone poles, fences and other structures because of its massive number of tendrils that can grab onto multiple surfaces. These vines grow into large trunk-like stems that often damages other plants, trees and structures. Trumpet creeper vines also produce viable suckers that can overtake flower and shrub beds. The plant does will all soil types and exposures, but blooms best in full sun.

Trumpet creepers can be grown as an ornamental vine in the landscape. Its showy, orange trumpet shaped flowers are quite showy adding a spark of color to the landscape. Plant breeders have developed less aggressive vines with larger, colorful blooms. These new cultivars can occasionally be found at local garden centers. Go to https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/campsis-radicans/ for more detailed information about this colorful vine.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at deblackw@ncsu.edu.