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.

Follow the Golden Groundsel Road!

If you are looking for an easy wildflower to grow for wildlife, Golden Groundsel, Packera aurea, seems to fit the bill. We squirrels recently came upon a hardy patch on a new trail.

Once Miz Flora looked it up, we learned that Golden Groundsel, Packera aurea, also known as Golden Ragwort, will grow in sun, shade and part shade, and blooms from March to August.

The yellow ray flowers are just like those zinnias and sunflowers you humans like to plants–and guess what?

Bees like them, too!

Remember we’ve talked about the efficiency of visiting one flower that is made up of many flowers? Golden Groundsel is in the aster family and forms those compound flowers that native bees like. As a bonus, you’ll be happy to know Hickory got dive-bombed by a goldfinch when he pulled down a seed head to taste the seeds. The bird wanted first dibs at those!

And we were just visitors in their woods, after all…

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

After your lesson on Friday, I’m compelled to ask…

What is this?

I’ll check back for your comments!


We squirrels admit it–we tried to trick you! Yes, this plant has leaves of three, and at a glance can be mistaken for poison ivy. Here’s a side-by-side of poison ivy first, then this mystery plant.

Do you see the differences? Poison ivy has a smoother, shiny leaf with large irregular teeth along the edges. This plant has more prominent veins and many small teeth evenly lining the edges.

The flowers of the mystery plant (shown as white buds) are white and large. If you were able to look closer at the mystery plant’s stems, you’d see thorns.

This is a balckberry plant. When they are small, they haven’t developed the woody canes that folks associate with berry bushes.

Raspberries are part of the rose family, and all of the members have leaves with leaflets in mostly 3s, but 5s and 7s are also common.

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.

Z is for Zizia!

Finally, finally, we have another local nature item that starts with Z!

We squirrels were off on a romp and found Zizia aurea, commonly called Golden Alexander and sometimes Golden Zizia, growing along one of the reconstructed streams in our suburban area. These streams were so badly eroding that huge boulders were brought in to re-sculpt the edges and form drops to slow storm water. Many plantings were put in, all of them native.

Zizia Aurea is found throughout North America, from Canada across the United States. The flat-topped umbels of flowers are typical of the flowers of the carrot family, which Zizia is a member. They like to grow in moist woods from full sun to part shade, so this is the perfect location for it.

The plantings have grown into a nice stand, haven’t they? Nectar-feeders are going to be very happy to find them all grouped together for easy sipping over the summer, and the black Swallowtail butterfly’s caterpillars will have delicious feast on the leaves.

As a fun side note you humans will appreciate, the plants in this genus are named to honor Johann Baptist Ziz, a German Botanist who lived from 1779 to 1829.

This brings us to the end of April and the end of our Blogging From A to Z April Challenge! We’ll try to have a few thoughts on our month over the weekend, or on the day the A to Z people ask us to. It’s been a fun spring for us and hopefully we made #StayHome more fun for you humans! That’s not over though, so we shall try to keep up our posts here.

W is for White Fringetree

WE squirrels are always looking around for different plants–and ones that we can eat part of at some point in the year. It’s not blooming yet–another few weeks–but the fringy, white blossoms of the native White Fringetree, Chionanthus virginicus, are stunning.

The flowers don’t attract nectar feeders, but they do form drupes that are eaten by birds–and squirrels!

Tiny pickings, but we will take them. The leaves, which are late to appear in the spring, host caterpillars of the Rustic Sphinx moth. This is a small tree, growing only 15-30 feet high so not decent for building a drey. Somehow, that makes it perfect for you humans that tend to keep small yards and tight spaces these days. White Fringetree prefers part shade.

U is for Unusual Tree Burl

U is a nature alphabet problem child! So we present you with one of the most Unusual tree trunks we’ve seen this spring.

This opening is around–or at?–a burl, a spot in the tree where the grain has twisted or deformed. Usually, the burl protrudes from the tree in a rounded, bark-covered mass, but this one has broken open, or perhaps been opened by humans.

Burls are attractive to humans because of their pretty wood patterns when cut open. Because there aren’t as many old trees around, you humans sometimes come into the woods and steal them off trees.

Hmm, the hollow would have made a nice squirrel drey if it wasn’t so close to the ground!

T is for Trout Lily

Ah, the Trout Lily, Erythronium americanum, is a spring woodland favorite. The flowers don’t appear as often as the leaves, becasue like the Lady’s Slipper, the plant only blooms when two leaves have enough energy to grow.

Trout Lilies do not grow in the water, as you might assume. The leaves are speckled like a brook trout, and grow on the rich soils of the floodplains of streams and rivers. In the right conditions–and likely with no competition–Trout Lilies will spread across the forest floor.

We spotted these flowers on an early morning romp, so aren’t sure if they are closed because it’s early in the day and they are saving their blooming energy for when the bees are out, or if it’s early in the season and they haven’t opened yet.

Sorry we can’t give you the full effect of how they petals turn back when the flowers are fully open, but have a look here on the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center website.

Q is for Quercus

Yes, Q is often for Quercus on The Squirrel Nutwork for Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.

We are Squirrels. Quercus is important to us.

And…there aren’t that many things in nature that start with Q. We are entering the part of the alphabet that is difficult for squirrels and nature.

So Quercus. Here’s a pretty one we spotted today.

Likely one we planted and forgot. This acorn is growing a White Oak, Quercus alba. After a few years…after we squirrel are gone… it will look like this…

flowering as Quercus do, with catkins to produce its own acorns.