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Natural meaning, no human alteration to them besides chopping them off from a tree or any type of plant.

Ways I'm wondering if natural vines can be used.

  • As a weapon, such as such as the bullwhip.
  • As a rope for tying up objects.
  • As a "jump rope" that can consistently hit the ground for a while without being damaged.

Traditional braided (human altered) vines won't solve the question, because I'm purely interested in whether there are any species of vines capable of being used for the above applications without editing their natural design.

I'm not knowledgable whatsoever about the vines of trees or any other plants. I've tried finding information online but I haven't personally had success finding information pertaining to the strength or flexibility of different vines.

Some characteristics I'm wondering if any species of vines have.

  • How thick can a plants vine be.
  • Are there only large vines with bark around them, or are there large vines (green) that are like a flowers "branches".
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    "string"-like, yes. But rope and string are normally braided.
    – Jon Custer
    Nov 3, 2023 at 19:19
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    There are a number of vines that can be used for cord or rope "as cut", but their strength will be unreliable. They are usually separated into fibres, which are twisted or/or braided into string and rope, for example sisal (string) and hemp (rope). Nov 3, 2023 at 19:21
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    You can also use strips of bark from various trees as crude string. Although it's not the bark itself, but the inner layer. And "willow whips" are a quite versatile material. Nov 3, 2023 at 19:26
  • Cross posted to Biology it seems: biology.stackexchange.com/questions/113394/…
    – bob1
    Nov 3, 2023 at 21:15
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    If you are looking for some plant that might grow anywhere in the world or on a fictional planet, world building may work but do include why you are looking for such a plant. If you are looking for a plant available where you live (or travel) give that as detail and it might fit here.
    – Willeke
    Nov 3, 2023 at 21:46

2 Answers 2

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The answer is yes, there are vines that do one or more of the things you want, and people in the (far) past have used them as such.

In the right time of the year brambles, the vines blackberries grow on, are harvested, thorns taken of, split in two or three and used to sew bee hives from straw. In the far past, before the splitting was usual the brambles were used as they came, they would be cleaned of thorns but other species of vines would grow without thorns. And that is just one example of use as a string I, grown up in the industrial part of the world, am familiar with.

If you look at the use of natural materials by peoples not from industrialised areas/times, you will see many uses of vines available where they live, which are often not known elsewhere or if known not used.

All vines have a core and bark structure as that is how plants grow, but the bark can be very thin and tender or quite hardy and/or rough, just as the vine as a plant need.

Vines can grow fast or slow. They can invest heavily in length and not grow thick, renewing the vines after the winter each year. Or they can grow thick at the base and keep on growing from there, a well known one for that is the grapevine, some old ones I have seen are as big as trees, over 30 cm/one foot, and as such would be suitable for a weapon.

I am not familiar with the vines of tropical regions, but I do know that there are many vines there that keep on growing and can reach enormous sizes, as there is no winter to kill them. So length and thickness are not limited.

Unless you specify a small part of the world, like a state in the US in size or even smaller, nobody can give you names of vines available and suitable, as there are just too many and most people have gone beyond using vines as found, as some simple processes, like braiding or twisting into rope does improve strength and reliability so much.

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    +1, also: An unstripped bramble is quite high on the list of things to avoid getting whipped with, along with wild rose stems of the right thickness. They wouldn't be very effective for combat weapons or livestock management but for punishment whippings they'd work. The normal cultivated grape vine, OTOH, are only flexible on new growth, when they're quite weak. Old growth is basically just wood. Either can be snapped too easily to tie knots in (I have a grape vine growing up my porch). ("English") Ivy would be marginally better, leaves removed, but knotting will always be a problem
    – Chris H
    Nov 9, 2023 at 15:50
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This answer gives mostly only background to your question, but it is too interesting not to post, IMO.

From Low Tech Magazine:

The earliest fossilized fragments of ropes and knots date back 15,000 to 17,000 years, which makes the direct evidence of this technology much older than that of the axe (6000 BC) or the wheel (5000 BC). However, based on indirect evidence (perforated objects, wear marks on artefacts, bone needles, representations in art, etcetera), archaeologists believe that the use of ropes and knots dates between 250,000 and 2,500,000 years old.

This article further states:

It is likely that the earliest “ropes” in prehistoric times were naturally occuring lengths of plant fiber, such as vines, followed by the first attempts at twisting and braiding these strands together to form the first proper rope in the modern sense of the word.

The article says that "modern apes have some very elementary skills at knotting and ropemaking [suggesting] that knot making may have preceded the genus homo." (Quote may not be word-for-word exact, but the gist is correct.)

Moreover, if modern apes have these skills, the skills probably went back to the point where the lineage that eventually became chimpanzees and the lineage that eventually became homo diverged, usually taken as about 6 million years ago. (!!)

As to WHAT vines, getting back to the actual question: Strong vines are common in my area of northern Virginia, in fact, they have to be whacked back periodically (at least every few years) or they will start to overcome desirable plantings. There is something commonly called "grape vine" here, although I have never seen any grapes on it, which could be used to crudely tie branches together. The main drawback of this mature vine is lack of flexibility, not strength, that is, it won't make a tight knot. THe vines grow to a great length, many feet. Thus, strong vines are not a feature only of Tarzan-inhabited jungles, but do very well in temperate zones. The leaves die in the winter, but the vine is very, very hard to kill. I know.

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