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The terms 'vines' and 'creepers' are used frequently in plant descriptions. They both have flexible growth and cannot support themselves in an upright habit.

A simple image search brings almost identical results. (vines and creepers) And from here:

All creepers are vines, but not all vines are creepers.

Are there any major differences that can be apparent between vines and creepers? What are they?

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Vines are not a special group of plants, but - like trees and shrubs - defined by appearances. Vines have long stalks/shots/branches that are too weak to support themselves. Usually vines are divided in two subgroups, creepers and climbers:

  • Creepers are vines that - if left alone - trail over the ground or hang down. If gardeners want them to grow upwards, they must tie them to some supporting structure. Creepers are often used as ground cover.

  • Climbers on the other hand, are vines that can climb on their own. They either

    • wrap their entire branch around supporting structures (like wisteria),
    • grow tendrils (sweat peas) or tendril-like leaves (clematis) or
    • have some sort of special aerial rootlets (English ivy) or adhesive pads (Virginia creeper -> a misnomer!)

    If no supporting structure is available, climbers will "creep" over the ground, too, of course.

Caveat: The naming is not always consistent, "Virginia creeper" is actually a "climber".


Edit as requested:

There is another type of "creepers", namely ground-covering or "crouching" plants without long "vine-like" branches. Creeping thyme is an example.

As all names in this post are based on apperance and not on some kind of botanical relationship, this was to be expected.

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  • Would you mind classing matt-forming creepers such as sedums, etc? – J. Musser Feb 1 '15 at 21:49
  • Sorry for the delay.... As non native speaker, I have no linguistic problem with sedums or creeping thyme vs. creeping vines, I simply use two different words in German: "kriechend" (=literally "creeping") denoting a low overall habit and "rankend" (= rambling") for the long stalks / branches of vines. So, as far as I can see, there are two possible meanings (in English) for "creeper" - one denoting a subgroup of vines (which I addressed according to your question), one describing other plants with "flattish" appearance. I will later add this to my answer when I have time. – Stephie Feb 3 '15 at 7:27
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    My understanding (as a grower of hops and grapes) is that vines are defined (at least among the horticultural folks that make distinctions - dictionaries may be sloppier) as having tendrils that wrap around things - like grapes. A bine, with a b, wraps its whole self around a supporting thing - hops do this, per your description wisteria would also be a bine. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bine_(botany) – Ecnerwal Feb 6 '15 at 2:21
  • @Ecnerwal: Sounds interesting - why not turn this into an answer? – Stephie Feb 6 '15 at 15:28

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