This week’s post is on Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), a climbing vine that is native in Ontario and parts of Quebec. It is not native to PEI and hence – because it will smother trees and shrubs reducing diversity and may harm brick work and masonry, it is certainly not desired and considered invasive. It is widely sold in nurseries, sometimes as “five-leaved ivy”. Its Latin name says the same thing – five leaves. In the fall, its leaves turn dark red and it is easily seen among other vegetation. It will climb walls, trees, shrubs, fences and poles. It can be difficult to remove once it is large. Cutting is the only way to kill the large vines and then pulling down the dead vines. Seeds can be spread by birds and are toxic to humans. Small vines can be pulled out, but all parts must be removed as it will creep (hence its English name!) and root wherever it contacts the soil. Disposal by incineration is best. Do not dump this vine anywhere it may grow again. Like the Oriental Bittersweet (see earlier post) it will smother native species of trees and shrubs and will reduce bio-diversity, making it a real threat to natural areas
This vine has been confused with poison ivy, but has five leaflets, unlike Poison Ivy, which has three. The margins of the creeper are toothed and Poison Ivy is smooth on its leaf margins or wavy. Some sources note that the sap of Virginia Creeper can irritate skin in some people.
Virginia Creeper loves sun but will tolerate shade and just grow more slowly. Avoid planting it in error through participating in plant swaps or sales where it can hide in pots with other species. If it does appear in your garden or property, pull vines as soon as possible. Control of large plants and widespread infestations is very difficult.