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Virginia creeper or five-leaved ivy (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is a woody vine native to eastern and central North America, in southeastern Canada, the eastern and central United States, eastern Mexico, and Guatemala, west as far as Manitoba, South Dakota, Utah and Texas.
It is a prolific climber, reaching heights of 20 to 30 m in the wild. It climbs smooth surfaces using small forked tendrils tipped with small strongly adhesive pads 5 mm in size. The leaves are palmately compound, comprised of five leaflets (rarely three leaflets, particularly on younger vines) joined from a central point on the leafstalk, and range from 3 to 20 cm (rarely 30 cm) across. The leaflets have a toothed margin, which makes it easy to distinguish from poison-ivy, which has three leaflets with smooth edges.
The flowers are small and greenish, produced in clusters in late spring, and mature in late summer or early fall into small hard purplish-black berries 5 to 7 mm diameter. These berries contain oxalic acid, which is poisonous to humans and other mammals, and may be fatal if eaten. However, accidental poisoning is uncommon, likely because of the bad taste of the berries. Despite being poisonous to mammals, they provide an important winter food source for birds.
Cultivation and uses
Virginia creeper is grown as an ornamental plant, because of its deep red to burgundy fall foliage. It is frequently seen covering telephone poles or trees. The creeper may kill vegetation it covers by shading its support and thus limiting the supporting plants' ability to photosynthesize.
Virginia creeper can be used as a shading vine for buildings on masonry walls. Because the vine, like its relative Boston ivy, adheres to the surface by disks rather than penetrating roots, it will not harm the masonry but will keep a building cooler by shading the wall surface during the summer, saving money on air conditioning. As with ivy, trying to rip the plant from the wall will damage the surface; but if the plant is first killed, such as by severing the vine from the root, the adhesive pads will eventually deteriorate and release their grip.
Native Americans used the plant as an herbal remedy for diarrhea, difficult urination, swelling, and lockjaw.
Also known as "Engelman Ivy" in Canada.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Parthenocissus_quinquefolia". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|