“Leaves of three, let it be. Leaves of five, let it thrive.” The first line of this rhyme, referring to Poison Ivy, is better known than the second. The second vine is Virginia Creeper, similar to Poison ivy in some ways, but with five leaflets instead of three — and much more welcome.
Late in September, Virginia Creeper is one of the most stunning plants in Eliza Howell Park.
Virginia Creeper is both a creeper and climber. It clings to trunks and drapes itself over dead and living branches, turning red or burgandy in contrast to the often green or yellow of surrounding plants.
Though an aggressive grower capable of climbing large trees, Virginia Creeper is not considered a threat to the health and vitality of the natural environment. It is native to our area, a vine with which other native plants have long been compatible. (This map of its native range is taken from Ontario Wildflowers.)
Attractive as the leaves are in early Fall, for some viewers the appearance of the fruit is even more striking, dark blue berries on red stems.
While the berries are usually described as toxic to hunans, they do not last long after they ripen, eagerly eaten by both mammals and birds. Some 30 species of songbirds have been confirmed as comsuming them, Norther Flicker being one.
(Photo courtesy of Margaret Weber.)
Fall leaf season is now starting in Eliza Howell. Virginia Creeper is contibuting to an excellent beginning.