Virginia Creeper

Parthenocissus quinquefolia

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Illustration of virginia creeper leaves, stem, flowers, fruit.
Virginia creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia.
Paul Nelson
Other Common Name
Woodbine
Family

Vitaceae (grapes)

Description

Virginia creeper is a climbing vine with tendrils and aerial roots to 75 feet high. It is in the grape family.

Leaves are alternate, palmately compound (leaflets arise from a single point), with 5 leaflets (rarely 7; or 3 on new growth); leaflets 2–6 inches long with pointed tips and margins coarsely toothed. Leaves typically turn bright red in autumn.

Stems are reddish-brown, finely hairy; tendrils many-branched, 1½–2 inches long, ending in sucker disks. Older stems, when climbing, develop coarse aerial roots used to attach to tree trunks, walls of buildings, and so on.

Flowering is in late May to August. Clusters arise opposite the leaves near the end of short stems of the season. Clusters are 1½–5 inches long and contain 2–200 flowers. Flowers are greenish, with 5 petals and with 5 stamens that extend beyond the flower.

Fruits ripen in September and October. Clusters are 3–6 inches long, with red stalks. Fruit is a dark purple berry, about ¼ inch across, globe-shaped, slightly flattened. Fruits are inedible and reputedly poisonous.

Size

A climbing vine that can grow 75 feet high.

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Image of Virginia creeper leaves
Virginia Creeper (Leaves)
Commonly confused with poison ivy, Virginia creeper, a trailing or climbing vine, has three to five divided leaves arranged in a palm shape, like an outstretched hand.

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Photo of Virginia creeper and poison ivy climbing on a tree trunk.
Virginia Creeper and Poison Ivy
Virginia creeper climbs on the left, and poison ivy climbs on the right in this picture.

Virginia_Creeper_new_growth_7-28-16.JPG

Photo of Virginia creeper, new growth, on a tree trunk.
Virginia Creeper New Growth
Virginia creeper is a climbing vine that can grow 75 feet high.

virgina_creeper.jpg

Virginia Creeper
Virginia Creeper
Habitat and conservation

Occurs in open and moist woods, fence rows, rocky wooded hillsides, ravines, and bluffs.

image of Virginia Creeper Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide.

Status

Common.

Human connections

An excellent vine for covering fences, walls of buildings, trellises, and other objects. Bonsai practitioners have created beautiful bonsai from Virginia creeper. The leaves turn a bright crimson to purple in the autumn. This species is unrelated to poison ivy; it is in the grape family.

Ecosystem connections

Honeybees frequent the flowers, and the fruits are eaten by many types of birds, including bobwhite. Deer browse the leaves and stems in spring and summer, and they eat the fruits in autumn. Squirrels eat the bark in winter. Wild turkeys eat the young tendrils.