August 28, 2020
Virginia creeper is more than just my college nickname; it's also a climbing vine! Also known as five-leaved ivy and Victoria creeper, Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is a member of the grape family Vitaceae and can be found across eastern and central North America, from Canada all the way down to Guatemala!
This vine is an accomplished climber and can reach heights of as much as 100 feet (and it sometimes seems like it can reach those heights in a matter of hours). It climbs its way up even smooth surfaces using small tendrils tipped with adhesive pads.
Virginia creeper is often mistaken for poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), although it's easy to tell the difference between the two: poison ivy has three leaves while Virginia creeper has five. However, if you have sensitive skin, you should still be careful around Virginia creeper as the sap contains tiny, needle-shaped crystals called "raphides" that can cause irritation and blisters in some people. The berries this vine produces should also be avoided, as they contain toxic quantities of oxalic acid that can cause kidney damage or even death in humans (birds love them, though).
This vine is sometimes planted as an ornamental to cover buildings, since the adhesive pads on the vine tendrils don't harm masonry and its leaves turn an attractive red color in the fall. Just be warned; it grows quickly! #BenInNature
ABOUT THIS POST
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. While he is working from home, Administrator of Science Ben Williams is venturing outdoors each day to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world.
NATURE PHOTO IDENTIFICATIONS
If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!