Yard Oddities: Don’t Fear the (Virginia) Creeper

It seems like all the fun plants that grow wild in summer are invasive. Good news on the Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) – despite its name, it’s actually a Florida native. It’s not here to destroy us! This vine can be found covering ground and climbing just about anything, from trees to fences to houses, and is common throughout the eastern United States, from Canada to Mexico. Birds enjoy eating its berries, but humans shouldn’t indulge. 

Often confused with poison ivy due to its look, the plant’s leaves are relatively harmless to humans. And, unlike invasive vines like kudzu and wisteria, which Floridians are programmed to quickly remove, Virginia creeper has a few redeeming qualities. First, it adheres with padded tendrils that don’t root in a way that damages the host tree or home. Second, it is one of the first plants to begin getting fall color, giving off nice reds and purples. Third, it’s easy to grow; in fact, it’s probably harder not to grow it. 

Keep an eye on it, though. If it gets out of control, Virginia creeper can hinder the growth of other trees and shrubs, and it can blend in before you realize it has taken over. The sneaky plant can wriggle through spaces unseen and pop out in unexpected locations (like the patch that reappears every summer in a certain second-story soffit, despite being yanked out repeatedly). 

Virginia creeper is deciduous, so it will lose its leaves, leaving behind spindly vines through the winter that have their own rustic appeal. So, don’t fear the creeper, but manage it wisely!