Kid Friendly? - Not for yards with very small children: toxic
Garden friendly? -Yes. Home for caterpillar babies of the pipevine swallowtail (caterpillars are much more interesting to me when I remember that they are baby butterflies, so sue me.)
The Southwestern Pipevine is a low, ground creeping vine, as well as a Sonoran Desert Native, that will pop up on its own, in the right area. It's also known as Watson's Dutchman's Pipevine. You can see why I prefer the first term, yeah? As to where it grows, I can tell you that I've found it around 3,500 feet, altitude-wise, and in one of the drier areas, so it doesn't need a lot of water, although I understand that it can grow in lower and riparian areas too, where water is more available. I have two of these in my yard currently that planted themselves. They are perennial; ours has been coming up for five years so far, dying off every winter and leaves making an appearance by March. It blooms in late Spring, summer, or early Fall.
This plant first came to my notice when the kids came in raving about a funky red caterpillar they found. I have to admit, it was a rather fantastical little thing, red and spiky - it would have looked good blown up big and used as a movie monster, to be honest.
The pipevine swallowtail is the butterfly which these spiky ugly ducklings will turn into, a nice thing to have in the garden. Quite pretty, really.
Pipevine, at least the one in my yard, is a small, low lying plant without spikes or other obnoxious bits to bother us. As it's a home to these caterpillars, leaving it alone when you find it not only saves you a few minutes of weeding, it also brings butterflies to the yard. A win-win, as long as you don't have itty-bitties who might be tempted to eat it.
Here's a couple pictures of one in my yard.
|These blend in very well if there's other greenery around.|
In any case, this gets my vote for a 'plant to encourage in the yard' if your kids are old enough not to eat it.
There is a distinctive 'fruit' for this that make identification much easier, but I don't currently have a picture of mine with the fruit on it. For pictures of this, as well as more technical and detailed information, check here:
I'll have more pictures to add to this as the year progresses and I can catch it in flower or with the little fruits.