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Virginia Creeper



Virginia creeper
Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Photo: Dr. Robert Polomski

Virginia creeper is a ubiquitous native vine or groundcover that deserves a place in the landscape. In fact, you may already have it growing outside your door and you’re not even aware of it.

Unfortunately, Virginia creeper is often mistaken for that other touch-me-not native vine, poison ivy. For the record, Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) has five leaflets as its specific epithet implies (quinquefolia is Greek for “five-leaved” although technically these are leaflets), while poison ivy has 3. Hence the rhyming warning: “leaves of three, let it be” or “berries white, run in fright.”

Virginia creeper can creep along the ground or it can go vertical like Spiderman and climb, using tendrils equipped with adhesive discs. The flowers are inconsequential, but the blue berries offer visual interest to us and sustenance to birds.

Virginia creeper’s greatest claim to fame is its brilliant red fall color. Whether it’s growing up a tree trunk or scaling a chain link fence, its spectacular fall color can rival the autumn-colored leaves of black gum and sourwood. If you prefer yellow fall color, consider ‘Yellow Wall.’

Virginia creeper is a tough, vigorous low maintenance vine that needs to be correctly identified and used in your landscape.