In late August and the first part of September, I often find myself visiting five different large perennial climbing vines that are found in Eliza Howell. I am watching the fruit develop and ripen.
Virginia Creeper berries have just recently completed the transition from green to blue.
These berries are eaten by many birds and some mammals, but humans are warned against eating them because of their toxicity.
Virginia Creeper is a woody vine, native to North America, and is found in forests and on the borders of clearings. The next picture is of a vine growing on a dead tree by the river.
Many people are surprised when they first see the fruit of Porcelain-berry; we do not expect fruit to be multicolored.
These berries are reported to be safe to eat, but not very palatable. I have not yet done my own taste test.
Porcelain-berry was first imported from East Asia as an ornamental about 1870. The vines grow vigorously (apparently spread by birds dropping seeds) and can choke out other plants, including trees. It is becoming widespread in Eliza Howell, blanketing sections along open areas.
The fruit of this vine ripens later in the year than that of the others here. Currently, it looks like this.
Also brought to the U. S. in the 1800s, Oriental Bittersweet also has the capacity to spread rapidly and to smother other species. It is not as widespread in the park as Porcelain-berry, but it is common.
Later in the Fall, the yellowish outer skin of the fruit opens to reveal the red seeds. They often hang on the vines well into the winter, when they can be an attractive addition to an after-the-snowfall scene. This picture is from early last November, not too long after they began to open.
Poison Ivy is, of course, best known for causing a painful itchy rash for most people who touch the plant. Since getting close to the plant is usually avoided, many do not know what the fruit looks like. I have been (carefully) observing how it progresses and this is what it looks like now.
Poison Ivy vines grow high on a number of large trees in the park, with the foliage turning red in the Fall, often while the leaves of the host tree are still green. Some red is already starting to appear.
I earlier did a post on the grapes of Eliza Howell (“Vinland,” August 9, 2018), so will not repeat that information now, but simply point out that this is what the grapes look like now.
Three of these large woody vines are native to North America; two were imported for gardens and “escaped” to the wild. Together, these five cover significant sections of the edges of wooded areas and climb many trees in the park. I find that this is a good time of the year to get to know them better, when their fruit clearly identifies them.