Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Virginia Creeper

Virginia Creeper
Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Virginia Creeper is one of those plants that you think is so easy to identify until you find out that there is another species, Woodbine, that looks just like it.  Why do we only hear about Virginia Creeper and not Woodbine?

While both Virgina Creeper and Woodbine are native to Indiana, another member of the Parthenocissus genus is not ... Boston Ivy.  Boston Ivy would be the most famous member since it is the reason for the moniker "Ivy League" for the league of snooty schools in the northeast.  It is also the plant that covers Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Boston Ivy is easy to identify, but how about the other two.  They're not so hard if you look at them closely.  Virginia Creeper has little pads at the end of its tendrils that it uses to stick to the sides of tree trunks.  Woodbine has tendrils that look like grape tendrils.  This genus happens to be in the grape family, Vitaceae.  Given the types of tendrils, Virginia Creeper tends to be the plant that is seen climbing up tree trunks, while Woodbine sort of intertwines with the foliage.

The tendrils have little pads at the ends of the tendrils
Typical palmate compound leaf with five leaflets, hence the species name of quinquefolia

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