Friday, October 10, 2008

Virginia Creeper

See the red way up at the top! That is Virginia creeper.

Here is some Virginia creeper on the ground that isn't red yet and isn't looking too healthy.

Out among the poison ivy, we also have Virginia creeper. The scientific name is Parthenocissus quinquefolia. Virginia creeper is a vine that grows up tree trunks and walls, and sometimes along the ground. Mature Virginia creeper has leaves in groups of five, but the younger vines often have groups of three making it difficult to distinguish from poison ivy. Virginia creeper attaches to things with little fork-like shoots that have sticky pads on them as opposed to poison ivy which has lots of little hair like roots. There is another plant that is nearly identical to Virginia creeper (often called false Virginia creeper) that attaches to surfaces with curly tendrils similar in manner to grape vines. It is more limited in what surfaces it can climb up. The plant that is common where we live is true Virginia creeper.

Virginia creeper is very pretty, and it doesn't cause an itchy rash like poison ivy. In the fall the leaves turn a vibrant red color. We have a lot of dead trees, and the Virginia creeper grows heavily in the tops turning them into pretty red torchlike posts in the autumn sun. Virginia creeper is native to most of Eastern and Central North America. It has been introduced in some other areas as an ornamental plant. It can be an aggressive climber growing thickly in the tops of trees and has been known on occasion to shade its host tree to an extent that it kills it.

Earlier this year, when I was out hiking with my daughter Lia, I got a vine caught around my ankle. I commented that I hoped it had not been poison ivy but Virginia creeper. Lia said, "I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but we don't have as much Virginia creeper as we use to so it was probably poison ivy." She was right! When I was out taking pictures for this post, I had trouble finding good specimens. The few I could see were way up in the treetops and hard to photograph.

1. poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
2. red maple (Acer rubrum)
3. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

1 comment:

mini bulldozer said...

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