Parthenocissus quinquefolia, known as Virginia creeper, five-leaved ivy, or five-finger, is a species of flowering plant in the vine family Vitaceae, 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.
The name "Virginia creeper", referring to one of its native locations, is also used for the whole genus Parthenocissus, and for other species within the genus. The name Parthenocissus is from the Greek literally meaning "virgin ivy", and may derive from the common English name of this species. It is not closely related to the true ivy, Hedera. The specific epithet quinquefolia means "five-leaved", referring to the leaflets on each compound (palmate) leaf.
This plant is also known in North America as woodbine, although woodbine can refer to other plant species (see the Woodbine disambiguation page).
P. quinquefolia is a prolific deciduous climber, reaching heights of 20–30 m (66–98 ft) in the wild. It climbs smooth surfaces using small forked tendrils tipped with small strongly adhesive pads 5 mm in size.
The leaves are palmately compound, composed of five leaflets (rarely three leaflets, particularly on younger vines) joined from a central point on the leafstalk, and range from 3 to 20 cm (rarely 30 cm) across. The leaflets have a toothed margin. The species is often confused with Parthenocissus vitacea, which has the same leaves, but does not have the adhesive pads at the end of its tendrils.
The leaf structure of Virginia creeper is also superficially similar to that of Cannabis sativa, with the effect that persons familiar with only the plants' leaf structures and not with their stem structures (which are markedly different) often mistake Virginia creeper for "ditch weed" (wild marijuana).
It is commonly misidentified as Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy) due to its similar ability to climb upon structures. Like poison ivy, Virginia creeper can cause skin irritations or painful rashes in some individuals.
The leaves turn a bright red in the fall (autumn).
Flowers and berries
The flowers are small and greenish, produced in inconspicuous clusters in late spring, and mature in late summer or early fall into small hard purplish-black berries 5 to 7 mm diameter. These berries contain oxalic acid, which is moderately toxic to humans and other mammals. The berries provide an important winter food source for birds.
Cultivation and uses
It is frequently seen covering telephone poles or trees. It may kill vegetation it covers by shading its support and thus limiting the supporting plants' ability to photosynthesize.
P. quinquefolia can be used as a shading vine for buildings on masonry walls. Because the vine, like its relative Parthenocissus tricuspidata (Boston ivy), adheres to the surface by disks rather than penetrating roots, it will not harm the masonry but will keep a building cooler by shading the wall surface during the summer, saving money on air conditioning. As with ivy, trying to rip the plant from the wall will damage the surface; but if the plant is first killed, such as by severing the vine from the root, the adhesive pads will eventually deteriorate and release their grip.
In Canada garden centres sell a small leaf variety called "Engelmann's Ivy" that is said to adhere to walls better.
- "Virginia Creeper Ampelopsis hederacea Parthenocissus quinquefolia". Gardenvisit.com. Retrieved May 3, 2013.
- Coombes, Allen J. (2012). The A to Z of plant names. USA: Timber Press. p. 312. ISBN 9781604691962.
- Harrison, Lorraine (2012). RHS Latin for gardeners. United Kingdom: Mitchell Beazley. p. 224. ISBN 9781845337315.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Parthenocissus quinquefolia". Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- Vine, general article on climbing plants
- Virginia Creeper (railroad)
- Virginia Creeper (Ampelopsis Weitchii)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Parthenocissus quinquefolia.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1879 American Cyclopædia article Virginia Creeper.|
- USDA Forest Service fact sheet on Virginia Creeper (PDF)
- USDA Plant Guide (PDF)
- USDA Plant Factsheet (PDF)
- Germplasm Resources Information Network: Parthenocissus quinquefolia
- Parthenocissus quinquefolia images at bioimages.vanderbilt.edu
- "Virginia Creeper". Collier's New Encyclopedia. 1921.