Direction of vine winding

Peter Rice rice at
Wed Jun 30 11:21:24 EST 1993

In article <1993Jun29.190907.26675 at>, hernlem at (Brad Hernlem) writes:
> I have noticed while walking through woods near my home that almost
> universaly the vines wind around the trees in a left-handed helix. My question:
> is this a manifestation of external factors or is the winding direction
> inherent in the vine. The left-handed helical trend would be in agreement with
> the hypothesis that the vines have a tendency to follow the sun. Similar vines
> growing in the southern hemisphere should wind with right-handed trend, if
> this were true.
> Any ideas anyone?

If I were a vine following the sun, I would probably avoid the North side
of the tree and fall off.

If you are old enough to recall it, there was a song along these lines some 30
years ago from Flanders and Swann. I once heard it at a seminar on unusual
plants. Called "Misalliance", it is a romantic tale of two plants but with
a tragic finish. The lyrics go roughly as follows (..... means I've
forgotten the words):

The honeysuckle slowly spirals clockwise to the sun
and many other creepers do the same.
But some climb anticlockwise,
the bindweed does for one,
or convulvulus to give its proper name.

Rooted on either side a door,
one of each species grew,
and raced towards the window ledge above.
Each corkscrewed to the lintel in the only way it knew
where they stopped,
touched tendrils,
and fell in love.

Said the right hand thread honeysuckle
to the left hand thread bindweed,
Oh let us get married! If our mothers don't mind we'd
be loving and inseparable, inextricably entwined
and live happily ever after
said the honeysuckle to the bindweed.

Said the anticlockwise bindweed
to the clockwise honeysuckle
"Many a mickle mak's a muckle"
said the bindweed to the honeysuckle.

A bee who was passing remarked to them then:
I've said it before and I'll say it again.
Consider your offshoots, if offshoots there be,
They'll never receive any blessing from me.

Poor little sucker, how will it learn
When it is climbing, which way to turn?
Left? Right? What a disgrace,
For it may go straight up
and fall flat on its face.

Said the right handed honeysuckle
to the left handed bindweed
It seems that against us all fate has combined we'd

Together they found them the very next day.
They had pulled up their roots and just withered away.
Deprived of that freedom for which we must fight:
To veer to the left
or to veer to the right!

 Peter Rice, EMBL                             | Post: Computer Group
                                              |       European Molecular
 Internet:    Peter.Rice at EMBL-Heidelberg.DE   |            Biology Laboratory
                                              |       Postfach 10-2209
 Phone:   +49-6221-387247                     |       W-6900 Heidelberg
 Fax:     +49-6221-387306                     |       Germany

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