Discussion: Which Direction Do Vines Twine?

Vines which grow spiraling or winding around something create a beautiful example of nature in action. This “twining” plant growth movement phenomenon is botanically termed circumnutation. Plants are able to circumnutate when one side of the stem touches a support element, and the cells on the opposite side elongate and are stimulated to grow faster. The vine will try to find anything in its proximity to twine around whether it’s a trellis, an adjacent plant or tree, or just about anything else.

Trellis Works Twining Vine Tendril

The direction a vine twines is determined by the species of the plant, and not impacted by influences such as the Coriolis Effect. This force causes moving objects on the surface of the Earth to be deflected to the right (with respect to the direction of travel) in the Northern Hemisphere and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere. The Coriolis Effect is generally associated with large weather patterns, but has also been incorrectly associated with smaller effects such as the direction water swirls down a sink.

Twining direction is defined by clockwise or counterclockwise as the vine wraps around its support, and from the direction which the vine is growing (i.e. the base of the plant or support). Look at the vine straight on at eye level, to see if it ascends to the left, or to the right. Clockwise twining (also termed dextrorse) is spiraling from left to right, and counterclockwise twining (known as sinistrorse) climbs from right to left.

Trellis Works Twining Vine Tendril

The majority of vines twine counterclockwise, but roughly 10 percent of vines spiral clockwise. Then there a few vines which can’t decide what to do. There have been instances where an individual tendril will start twining in one direction, and then reverse the direction itself (a cucumber vine has been known to do this). In addition, there are species within the same plant family which twine in different directions. For example, a Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) twines clockwise while a Japanese Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) twines counterclockwise. So, the short answer is that the twining direction is based on plant genetics, and predictable twining direction can assist in determining the species of a plant during times where blossoms or leaves are absent–such as winter months.

Trellis Works Twine Vine Tendril

Regardless of twining direction, almost any twining vine will circumnutate around a Trellis Works Single Plane or 3D Panel Wire Trellis. If our team at Trellis Works can help you with any additional information for developing your plan to incorporate a green facade element, please let us know.


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