Five Leaf Vine

Hickory is chittering at me for posting plants two days—

“Not just plants, Nutmeg. But boring ivy plants. At least you could show flowers.”

“Stop it right there, young man.” Miz Flora huffed out her fur. “There is a demand for this information. Just stop and listen.”

Okay, as I was saying, yesterday we showed poison ivy, and today we’re featuring another native vine that many humans confuse with it: Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia. For a few weeks now I’ve noticed that humans are finding our site with the search terms “five leaf vine.” We did mention Virginia Creeper in that April poison ivy post because they are confusing. But Miz Flora and I decided Virginia Creeper needs its own day with lots of pictures that will help set people straight.

Like poison ivy and grape vines in our area, Virginia Creeper will climb trees.

And it trails across the ground.  That’s English Ivy above the single creeper vine at the bottom. Notice the five leaves, that radiate from one central point. This is called palmately compound and you can remember it because it’s like your hand. Your human hand that is, not our paw.

The plant can have just three leaves, especially at the tips of new vines. This is why it gets confused with three-leaved poison ivy. That, and the edges of the leaves are also irregularly toothed. But after you look at a number of them, you start to see that the leaf surface isn’t as smooth on the creeper, or as shiny. The vines do not have hairs. Instead, a few tendrils with a tiny disc hold the woody vines to surfaces.

We hope this helps with your identification of the two vines. It would be nice if you humans let the Virginia Creeper grow around your woodlands. It has a berry that is moderately toxic to humans, but is widely eaten by birds in the winter when the pickings are slim.

“Hey, Nutmeg? How about that last picture?”

Oh, yeah. Just in case you thought this plant was easy with the five leaves—it’s not. Virginia Creeper can also have more than five leaves. Sorry, but sometimes nature is funny like that.


20 thoughts on “Five Leaf Vine

  1. Hi Nutmeg,
    I love your blog. So, its not leaves of three, leave it be? That’s my all time test. Thanks for the pictures. Very helpful. And BTW, I love Virginia Creeper. Its so sad when it dies back in the winder months and turns brown.

    • Uh, oh, Nancy. Are you saying the phrase should be ‘LEAVE it be’ ? That makes sense to my squirrel brain. Yes, leave poison ivy be (it always has three leaves) as in don’t TOUCH it.

      Virginia Creeper doesn’t cause a rash, but is going to fool you with its varied leaf count. But it’s so pretty in the fall, most people will leave it be to grow again next year!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Hi. I think I have “virginia creeper” in my back yard. I’d like to make sure. I read your page about the Virginia Creeper and I took pictures of the one growing in my back yard. If possible, could you send me an email so I can upload my pictures to you. We’d like confirmation. It has been thriving in our bank yard for years, growing up a tree, on the fence, and the shed. I don’t like it. It’s ugly! Is it safe or is it some type of poisonous plant? Thank you for your aid.

    Desperately seeking ivy,
    Laura from Texas

    • Sure, Laura, send away. Our contact is thesquirrelnutworkATgmailDOTcom
      Replace the At and DOT with the usual. And thanks for bringing to my attention that we don’t have a contact form. I’ll have to see to putting that up.

  3. Please note that Virginia Creeper can cause a very bad rash to many people. I myself have my entire forarms covered with a nasty itchy rash from this plant at this very time. My sister swells up if she even so much as gets near the stuff. Of course, like poison ivey, not everyone will “get” it. I say it is better safe than sorry if it is in an area where you, children or even pets would come into contact with it.

    • Hi Murphy,
      We checked into this and Miz Flora found a very good page on Virginia Creeper in the USDA plant files that does agree the vines can cause a rash from oxalate crystals in the sap. Sounds like you’re allergic to to it, as are a portion of the human population. The berries are poisonous, too. Here is the link to read more.

      Thanks for filling us in on this. Hope you catch sight of the five leaves before you run into Virginia Creeper again!

    • The neighborhood I used to live in years ago had this and its vines were very large because the lots had been vacant for years. Several adults and children developed rash like bruises. er rooms, antihisitmine, etc and I frankly know of no one that is not allergic to this 5 leaf ground trailing and climbing bush choking vine. Very difficult to get rid of.

  4. Thanks for the great piece on Virginia Creeper. I recently developed poison ivy for the first time in 30 years and found Virginia Creeper while looking for the poison ivy. Thanks to your article, it will live on. The poison ivy, however, is toast.

  5. Thanks for the info about the Virginia Creeper. We have a plethora of it growing in the juniper, across the garden, around the composter etc.etc in our new (older) home we just purchased in Colorado. Is there a way to tame this creature so we can feed the birds and not choke out our beautiful garden. I also have a plethora of raspeberries…yum. The juniper are also out of control. No TLC for the past 5 years from previous owners due to age/physical restrictions etc. There are other plants/shrubs etc that we are unable to identify. We have a lot of work to do!!

    • Sorry, Paula, we don’t know of any way to keep Virginia Creeper in check except to pull or trim the vines. It can take over, so we wish you luck!

  6. Thanks for the info! We’ve just moved into a new home, and while I was weeding, found this plant trying to take over the garden. Your post and the comments helped me to identify it as Virginia creeper. I decided to pull it up, since it does have the tendency to take over.

  7. Thank you for the information about the Virginia Creeper I think that is what is growing on this brick house we are thinking about getting looks like it has died back so I plan on taking it off the house and hopefully get it to grow in a big container or at least on a trellis away from the house will it still be beneficial for the birds and squirrels etc in the area?I am so happy I found your site:)

  8. Hi, unfortunately, the Virginia Creeper will choke and kill forty foot tall hard wood trees. It is leathal. I am told there is no way to control it other than hand pulling vines which at best, slows the onslaught. I would not recommend planting this anywhere near favored trees. I love trees, plants, birds, nature, but this vine is too much! Thanks for all your info.
    Geneva, NY (Finger Lake Region)

    • I agree… plus they hide other, horrible stuff, like poison ivy and thorned vines in with themselves, making it harder to keep control of.

  9. A friend and I just spent 2 hours this morning cutting down Virginia Creeper, and 2 kinds of thorny vines, all in a massive bundle, from behind our barn. Wish I’d thought of taking “before” photos.

  10. Thank you for clearing that up…shew glad it wasn’t poison ivy like my husband tried to convince me. I was pretty certain it wasn’t, and you have reassured me!

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