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Virginia Creeper – Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Virginia Creeper – Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Virginia creeper, five-leaved ivy, or five-finger (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is a woody vine native to eastern and central North America, in southeastern Canada, the eastern and central United States, eastern Mexico, and Guatemala, west as far as Manitoba, South Dakota, Utah and Texas.

A woody, dedicuous vine, Virginia Creeper can be high-climbing or trailing, 3-40 ft.; the structure on which it climbs is the limiting factor. Virginia Creeper climbs by means of tendrils with disks that fasten onto bark or rock.

Its leaves, with 5 leaflets, occasionally 3 or 7, radiating from the tip of the petiole, coarsely toothed, with a pointed tip, and tapered to the base, up to 6 inches long.

Leaves provide early fall color, turning brilliant mauve, red and purple. Inconspicuous flowers small, greenish, in clusters, appearing in spring. Fruit bluish, about 1/4 inch in diameter.

Virginia Creeper can be used as a climbing vine or ground cover, its leaves carpeting any surface in luxuriant green before turning brilliant colors in the fall.

Its tendrils end in adhesive-like tips, giving this vine the ability to cement itself to walls and therefore need no support. The presence of adhesive tips instead of penetrating rootlets also means it doesnt damage buildings the way some vines do. It is one of the earliest vines to color in the fall. A vigorous grower, it tolerates most soils and climatic conditions.

In years past, children learned a rhyme to help distinguish Virginia Creeper from the somewhat similar-looking and highly toxic Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans): Leaves of three, let it be; Leaves of five, let it thrive.

Poison Ivy leaflets are normally in groups of three, while those of Virginia Creeper are in groups of five.

The berries of Virginia Creeper can be harmful if ingested, however, and the rest of the plant contains raphides, which irritate the skin of some people.

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