The five leaf vine and the three leaf vine…

We squirrels see that you humans are still fervently searching to learn which is the vine that causes the nasty rash. Sometimes it’s not easy to sort these leaves of five and three, especially if they are growing close together.

Here’s a great example of both the five leaflet and three leaflet leaves on the same plant…or so you might think, if you don’t look closer. That’s the poison ivy, three leaflets, on the outside. The five leaflet leaf in the middle is Virginia Creeper.

These two native vines are growing side by side from separate plants. The separate seeds were likely dropped by bids perching on this favorite log after they’d eaten the berries of the different plants.

But to make matters evermore confusing, the five leaved Virginia Creeper is trailing over the ground and near another three-leaflet plant that is not Poison Ivy.

Those are blackberry sprouts, that will turn into arching canes that look somewhat shrubby.

The blackberry leaves are in threes or fives, much like others of their rose family. They have more teeth along the edges of the leaflets and thorns. The thorns are the real giveaway that this is a member of the rose family, and not one of the other two vines.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this flower?

Give us a guess in the comments and I’ll Be back to check your answers!


These tiny yellow-green flowers are Poison Ivy flowers! Yes, they are barely noticeable, but woo-hoo, do they cause a lot of angst among you humans. In the fall, the clusters of drupes–the fruit–will tempt songbirds.

Afterward, the seeds inside will be deposited here and there, sprouting new poison ivy shoots where once there was none.

National Invasive Species Awareness Week – English Ivy

For our second invasive plant that humans grow on purpose, we’ve chosen English Ivy, Hedera helix. As you may guess from the name, English or common ivy is originally from Europe. Many plants and animals were introduced to the New World because colonists either used them for a medicinal or food purposes, or couldn’t imagine living without them.

English Ivy did have medicinal value, all the way back to the times of Hippocrates and the ancient Greeks. We squirrels are not recommending these treatments. We are simply stating that early peoples found uses for the plant and wanted to continue those uses, such as preventing intoxication, reducing swelling, and as an anesthetic.

Also, from a gardeners’ perspective, English Ivy will grow in shade, requires little care and will spreads by root runners and by seed. Again, now we know these habits are detrimental to the health of our native plants.

Interestingly, English Ivy only flowers when it has upright shoots, such as traveling up a tree or building. It does damage both when doing this, by sending its roots under bark and into masonry, allowing water and fungus to grow.

Thus, we recommend that you remove the ivy from your trees and buildings first. Cut the vines without cutting the tree bark to prevent harm to trees. The humans we squirrels have been observing in our neighborhood used a tool, like a screwdriver, to lever up the vines to cut them. They then remove the vine from the base of the tree to ensure they got all of them and often cut back a circle of vegetation.

The plant will die on the tree and soon will be brittle enough to break off.

Hickory and I are doing our part by running up and down the trunks to loosen it so it falls faster. Pass the word to your squirrel friends in your neighborhoods!

When removing the vines from the ground, it’s best to wait until after a recent rain so the soil is wet and giving. Then you humans have the best chance of having the roots come up with the vine. Any piece of root left in the ground will sprout anew. Sorry, but you might be removing for several years to come, but it should become less and less.

Be sure to replace the ivy with native plants–plenty of them thrive in the shade. But that’s a story for another post!

National Invasive Species Awareness Week – Periwinkle

We prefer talking about native plants on this blog, but we squirrels are well aware that many plants out there are not native. These plants and animals are called ‘invasives,’ and they don’t operate in their own special world. They affect other, native plants and animals in our habitat in many ways, like competing for space, or homes, or eating all the food up, or killing our native animals.

This year, National Invasive Species Awareness Week, is from May 16-23. We squirrels just noticed this, because we saw it on another nature blog from our area. They are probably prepared and going to feature many more plants and animals, so you might want to leap on over to Capital Naturalist’s blogspot. This is their 2018 post from when they first posted for invasive week. We can’t seem to find a ‘home page’ on Blogspot, but that’s us squirrels for you!

Here on The Squirrel Nutwork, we do have a few invasive photos on hand, and we’ll post a few plants that you humans might plant on purpose. They may not have been considered invasive years ago, but now they are.

Let’s start with Periwinkle, Vinca major and Vinca minor. 

This vining plant, also known as creeping myrtle, is named for it’s blue flower–which unfortunately, we don’t have a photo of! But our tech-savvy human readers can search for it. Or likely you already know what it looks like!

Periwinkle is often sold as a plant that fills in over mulch or provides a nice ground cover. Wherever a tip of the plant touches the ground, it can root. The root will then send up a new shoot, and thus the plant spreads.

Really spreads. It doesn’t observe social distance, er, boundaries with other plants. Periwinkle will go right through them.

Yes, the flower is pretty, but nothing in North America pollinates it. Nothing eats periwinkle. Not even deer. We hate to admit it, because that alone will probably encourage some of you humans to go buy some. But by planting periwinkle, you are making your yard a desert for bees and other insects that need habitat.

This makes us sad. Didn’t we tell you that we preferred to talk about native plants?

We squirrels and other animals need your help to keep invasive plants from pushing us out. Keep watch for invasives and help out the plants and animals in your neighborhood by removing them. Or not planting them in the first place!

Thank you!

A review of 3 leaf vine and 5 leaf vine

Simply, we have two vines in the Eastern United States that are commonly confused. Both have leafed out, so let’s review!

Vine # 1

3 leaf vine: Leaves of three, let it be!

This is Poison Ivy, the plant with oils over all parts of it–leaves, vines and roots!–that can cause a nasty rash on your human skin. Can you see it here?

Look closely, the leaves are just emerging at the tops of the vine which is reaching upward. They have tinge of red to them. This is when the oils are fresh but the plant is invisible against the leafy ground. Too many humans don’t notice it when they step off a path–to social distance, maybe?–or are bending down to photograph a pretty flower.

Here’s a better look at fresh spring leaves of Poison Ivy.

Summer leaves of Poison Ivy.

Fall color leaves of Poison Ivy.


Vine #2

5 leaf vine. Or 6 leaf, 7 leaf, 8 leaf, 9….

Virginia Creeper can have many different counts of leaflets to its leaf. Even three! Sometimes even on the same vine. Virginia Creeper does not have the oil and does not cause a rash when touched. Virginia Creeper also has a tinge of red to the leaves when they are first unfurling.

And remember, Virginia Creeper can be confusing with multiple leaflets to a leaf.

The  most common is five leaflets.

Summer leaves of Virginia Creeper.

Fall leaves of Virginia Creeper.

Both of these native vines have small flowers and produce berries that are eaten by birds. The birds then carry those seeds off and deposit them anywhere. Meaning a new vine may sprout anywhere. Always check over your garden!

Beware, the two vines can grow together and their leaves be intertwined!

We squirrels hope this gives an adequate review. If you want to read our other, multiple posts on Poison Ivy and Virginia Creeper, search for them on the side bar. A fun quiz we ran years ago is linked here. And another here.

Ah, the perils of fall

See a pretty leaf, pick a pretty leaf…

Maybe not if it’s poison ivy! Its color varies from this beautiful orange-red to a duller yellow, depending on how much sun the plants got and how much sugar is left in the leaves.

And of course, these native vines may be hidden among some more appealing plants, like this berry or the late-blooming smartweed we featured as our mystery plant a few Sundays ago. Look before you touch!

Beware of changing leaves

So folks, it’s that time of the year–or soon will be. We are getting lots of rain from regular weather, as well as Hurricane Florence pushing some up this way, so our trees and hillsides aren’t drying out. But have you noticed it’s dark by 7:30 these days? Fall equinox is this Saturday, at 9:54 pm. (How do you humans figure these things out?) The plants know the daylight hours are waning and will start to pull in their sugars. This makes the leaves pretty, and you humans like to touch them. Except theres one that shouldn’t be touched…

Yep, that’s the very pretty fall variation of poison ivy. The leaves are drying so don’t have as much natural oil as it does in the spring–the stuff that causes itchiness–but it has enough.

Leaves of three, let it be!

No Mystery Today!

Hey, sorry, I know! But here’s a poison ivy and a Virginia creeper for you to ponder the difference between.

Both vines, both native. Remember, leaves of three let it be!

If you need more practice, here’s a link to our poison ivy-Virginia creeper quiz. Get the answers by clicking on the next post at the bottom of that page…back then we put our answers in separate posts–*facepaw*. You can also search those individual posts in the search box to learn more about each plant.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

The poison ivy season is upon us again. Can you tell it apart from other vines? That’s your mystery challenge today!





Which is / are poison ivy? What are the others?

Will check in later for your answers!


These are all vines in our area of northern Virginia. We had a correct guess in the comments on the poison ivy, number 2: ‘Leaves of three, let it be’ is a good reminder of what it looks like.

Number 1 is a plant that perhaps you should fear more than poison ivy–it’s a horrible invasive, mile-a-minute weed.

Number 2, the dangerous poison ivy.

Number 3 is the top vine confused with poison ivy, Virginia Creeper. It commonly has 5 leaflets to a leaf, but that varies tremendously, from 5 to 9!

Number 4 is trumpet creeper vine, native, not poisonous, but is so aggressive that some gardeners choose not to let it grow.

Thanks for visiting!