Trunks of Fire


By Karen Menard

Like flames of an inferno consuming a tree trunk, Virginia creeper’s (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) fiery hues rank as some of the top stars in the woodland fall color show.

A member of the grape family, this five-leaved vine is a vigorous climber that can quickly grow up to twenty feet in just one year! Keep in mind, it also can be commonly found underfoot, creeping along the ground, forming a dense cover.

Often resembling poison ivy, creeper sometimes grows next door. However, poison ivy has three leaves—not five, and is a “hairy” vine. Virginia creeper sports small, (but mighty), sticky cups at the end of its tendrils, keeping it tightly fastened and headed in the right direction.

Beautiful deep indigo berries are produced in late summer, offering migratory songbirds and small wild mammals a seasonal treat; however, due to the high concentration of oxalic acid, berries are toxic to humans.

Virginia creeper finds its home in all of the Metroparks. As you walk the trails or take a drive, look for its radiant blazes of deep red, purple, and orange engulfing tree trunks throughout the woodlands.            

Did you know?
This plant contains microscopic, needle-like calcium oxalate crystals called raphides that can irritate skin.

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