|...VINES DRAPED OVER A WHITE PINE|
|... RAMBLING OVER SUMAC BUSHES|
Virginia creeper, also known as woodbine, has gotten a late start color-wise this year, but is now busily covering trees and shrubs with its graceful, crimson drapery. It can be weedy, so keep it out of the garden. It is usually among the first plants to turn color in the fall and often dominates the landscape in many places. It climbs by modified branchlets called tendrils, as do grapes, and is in the Grape Family, the Vitaceae.
There are at least two species of Virginia creeper hereabouts, Parthenocissus quinquifolia and P. inserta. The genus name translates from the Latin as virgin's vine. They add interest to rocks, andto tree trunks and other plants as they clamber about, the former by little suction discs on the tendrils, the latter by twining tendrils alone.
Virginia creepers are closely related to the cultivated Boston ivy, which is a horticultural derivation of an Asian species, P. vitaceae. As far as my abilities will take me, I believe the prevalent species in the Bayfield area, and the one pictured, is P. quinquifolia, but the reference books themselves seem rather confused about the two species, so I don't feel too badly about it. I am inclined to consider the plant pictured being a hybrid (how's that for spin; I should run for office).
Virginia creeper has rather insignificant flowers but bears clusters of attractive, blue-black fruit. Native Americans had a number of medicinal and ceremonial uses for the fruit and other parts of the plant and there is some reference to using the berries for food, but I also see references to the berries being poisonous, so take your pick. I tasted one today and I think it should be in the later category.
Folks sometimes mistake Virginia creeper for poison ivy, since they are both vines, and both turn crimson in the autumn, but the former has five leaflets, and the latter three. Confusing and weedy or not, Virginia creeper has always been one of my favorite plants.