Virginia creeper vine poisonous

Virginia Creeper Control: How To Get Rid Of Virginia Creeper

Many gardeners become incredibly frustrated with Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). This five-leaved ivy is a prolific woody vine that climbs quickly, choking out everything in its path. This includes other flowers, trees, shrubs, fences, walls, gutters, poles and even windows. Virginia creeper is especially aggressive when planted in the shade.

Many people use Virginia creeper as a ground cover in large open spots and control rapid growth by clipping it frequently. Even though the vine is attractive, it can easily become a nuisance because of its aggressive climbing habit. When this happens, it helps to find out ways for getting rid of Virginia creeper.

Virginia Creeper or Poison Ivy?

Although Virginia creeper is often found growing with poison ivy, they are two distinctly different plants. Many times people will touch poison ivy mixed in with Virginia creeper and mistakenly think that the creeper caused the rash. Poison ivy has only three leaves while Virginia creeper has five. Virginia creeper leaves also turn bright red in the fall. Like poison ivy, this vine may need to be controlled. Keep reading for info on Virginia creeper control.

How to Get Rid of Virginia Creeper

Controlling Virginia creeper is best done when the plant is small; however, it is still possible to deal with larger plants, although it takes more patience and time. Virginia creeper control begins by pulling the vine from the structures or vegetation that it is clinging on to.

The sap in the plant can cause irritation to the skin, so it is recommended that you wear gloves. Young vines can be pulled by hand while larger vines require the use of a handsaw or other pruning tools. Cut away the vine, leaving only a small piece.

Once you have the vines untangled you can get down to the business of getting rid of Virginia creeper.

What Kills Virginia Creeper?

Although you can cut Virginia creeper back as it begins to invade areas of your yard, it gets old after a while. So what kills Virginia creeper then? The best product to use on Virginia creeper is diluted glyphosate.

Hold the vine away from your body and paint the product on the vine using a foam paintbrush. Be very careful not to get glyphosate on any other vegetation, as it is non-selective and will kill any vegetation that it meets.

Be sure to follow the dilution instructions on the product label and always wear gloves when working with chemicals.

Now that you know how to get rid of Virginia creeper, you have all the tools necessary for combating overgrown vines in your landscape.

The Virginia Creeper is a tenacious plant and spreads very fast. It can kill plants it grows on as it blocks them from receiving sufficient sunlight and also contains raphides that can cause skin irritations.

Furthermore, if your walls have some cracks, the vine can easily get in and cause damage. Luckily, there are ways to get rid of Virginia creeper; both naturally and unnaturally.

How do you kill Virginia creeper naturally?

  • Cut the creeper’s main trunk using pruners. Ensure the point you cut is as close to the ground as possible.
  • Then pull away the Virginia creeper cut from the structure, shrubs and/or trees to remove it. Be keen not to damage the structure or tree during the process.
  • Be on the lookout for any new growth signs where the creeper was cut. If you see any growth, immediately remove it to stop it from growing back.

Remember to put on protective gear when cutting. Put on safety glasses and gloves, as well as a long-sleeved shirt.

The other option to eliminate the Virginia creeper vine growing on your property is by using a good herbicide. There is a number of herbicides that claim to destroy the Virginia creeper.

However, not all may be as effective as advertised. So which herbicide kills Virginia creeper and is effective to use?

The most effective product to use on the creeper is diluted glyphosate. This glyphosate may come in different brands such as Roundup.

The product preference may, therefore, depend on other factors such as cost and usability. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the glyphosphate is a non-selective vegetation killer.

You need to be extra careful not to get it on other vegetation. Here is how to use it:

  • First, read and follow the dilution instructions written on the product label
  • Hold the Virginia creeper away from your body
  • Use a foam paintbrush to paint the product on the Virginia creeper

Is Virginia Creeper poisonous?

The Virginia creeper is toxic. Its berries can be harmful to humans if ingested as they contain amounts of oxalic acid. However, birds are not harmed by eating these berries.

The sap contacts oxalate crystals that are needle-like and can cause a rash or skin irritation to some people.

That is why it is important to wear gloves, especially if you are sensitive when coming into contact with the plant.

Poison ivy is often mistaken for Virginia creeper as they often grow together. They are different plants that can simply be differentiated from their leaves. While Poison ivy has just three leaves, the creeper has five. Also, Virginia creeper leaves turn bright red during fall.

While the Virginia creeper may be a good plant for providing fall color, the potential negative effects of allowing it grow around your property may outweigh the positive. In such a case, the methods discussed above should effectively help you get rid of the plant.


It seems that you have a Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), a rapidly growing deciduous woody vine that can grow to 50 ft. New roots develop when the nodes of the vine touch the ground as well as from seeds. The vine has 5 leaflets and oval adhesive discs at the end of tendrils which adhere to walls and fences. Virginia creepers are often grown for their brilliant red fall colour. The following web site offers further information and photographs of this vine.

Now that this vine has reappeared in your garden, you know that it is not easy to get rid of. Herbicides have been used in the past, but the Toronto Pesticide Bylaw would not permit the use of these in home gardens in the City of Toronto (as this would be considered a cosmetic use).

The best approach will be to dig it out as soon as it appears. Eventually the roots will die from lack of nutrients. You will have to be diligent and persistent. It is possible to get rid of this vine in this manner. I have been successful in my own garden using this method.

Regarding your cedar, lack of water, insect pests or even root rot are all possible culprits but your problem could just be natural cedar flagging. The British Columbia Department of Agriculture has a good site about cedars that you might find helpful. For example, it states that “if only a few branches have died out in patches along the hedge in summer, this may be natural cedar flagging. It is very common on Western Red Cedar and less frequent on Eastern White Cedar. Flagging may be more severe in hot, dry weather but is not considered harmful to the tree.” For more information see:

You mention that you water your cedars daily. You have the right idea – that cedars grow naturally in wet areas, but it is better to water deeply and thoroughly once or twice a week as opposed to watering more often and lightly. Adding mulch around your cedars will help retain the moisture for their shallow root system.

The same watering regime applies to lawns. Once established, water your lawn thoroughly and deeply once a week. A deep watering will encourage the grass roots to grow further into the soil, thus protecting them from drier spells in the future.

The link below provides interesting information about pruning and fertilizing cedars which you might find helpful for the future.

Good luck with your visiting Virginia Creeper!

It is common knowledge that many plants are highly poisonous when ingested. There are also many poisonous plants in the wilderness that you don’t want to make contact with. How many can you recognize that are poisonous to touch? Here we’ll show you how to identify the common ones you’ll likely encounter when hiking in the United States that you should not touch. Know how to identify the common ones, and you’ll avoid any aggravating rashes.

How to Recognize Plants that are Poisonous to Touch

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy is the most common poisonous plant you’ll encounter and causes an itchy rash for most people who touch it. The rash is caused by urushiol, a clear liquid compound found in the sap. Despite its common name as an ivy, poison ivy is not a true ivy because it does not always climb. It is variable in its appearance and habitat. It is found growing as a shrub, a trailing vine along the ground, or climbing fences, posts, and trees.

Poison Ivy leaves may be notched as seen here

Identify by: A woody stem (no thorns) with clusters of 3 leaves consisting of 2 opposing leaflets and 1 larger terminal leaf. Each group of three leaflets grows on its stem, which connects to the main vine. Leaflets may have a notch. Flowers are yellow-green (appearing May – July) in clusters near the round, waxy white berries.

Found: Nearly everywhere, especially along fences, trail posts, and stone walls in North America, Asia, Bermuda, & Bahamas.

Caution: 80% of the human population is allergic to urushiol, the oil excreted by poison ivy and poison oak. It is not poisonous to most wildlife. Animals often consume the leaves and birds consume the berries. The berries are astaple food for birds during the winter months. The birds spread poison ivy after excreting the seeds contained in the berries.

Symptoms: Red rash, inflammation, spreading blisters and scabs 4 to 24 hours after contact. Can cause temporary blindness if oil gets into the eyes. Never touch any portion of the plant, even in the winter when it appears dormant. The leaves of the plant do not have to be intact for you to get a rash.

Poison Oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum – Western U.S; Toxicodendron pubescen – Eastern U.S)

Poison Oak is a low-growing shrub (up to 3 ft tall) with compound leaves containing 3 leaflets. Unlike poison ivy, the leaflets are lobed with rounded edges, which give it the appearance of an oak tree leaf. The “oak” in the common name refers to the fact that the leaves resemble those of the white oak tree. Coincidentally, poison oak tends to climb on the trunk of Oak trees. Leaves are brighter on the top side and slightly hairy underneath. Flowers are yellow-green (appearing May – June) in clusters near the hard waxy berries (berries turn white during autumn).

Found: Most common form on the western U.S. coast (diversilobum), also called ‘Pacific Poison Oak,’ is found growing at sea level at elevations up to 5,000 feet in dry woodlands. The eastern form, also known as ‘Atlantic Poison Oak’ grows in dry sandy soils, predominately in the southeastern states.

Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix)

Poison Sumac

Sumac is a small tree (up to 25 feet) with a few wide spreading branches. It likes water and is usually found in the eastern U.S. in wet soils in and around swamps and marshes. The compound leaves are pinnate, containing an odd number of leaflets, usually between 7-13 in number. The leaflets are 2 to 4 inches long with a smooth edge and pointed tip. Because it is a tall, sumac poisoning tends to affect the face and head. The flower and fruit from poison sumac are very similar to those of poison ivy and poison oak.

Found: Southern U.S. near swamps, especially common along the Mississippi River.

Poison Ivy Relatives

You are less likely to encounter the following plants unless you where they flourish. Unlike poison ivy, they require more specific growing conditions. They are no less dangerous to touch, and the effect of poisoning is very similar to that of poison ivy. Some of the nastiest species, such as poisonwood, are found in South Florida in sandy coastal areas and tropical hammocks.

Poison Wood (Metopium toxiferum)

Poisonwood bush If you ever hike the Florida Trail or south Florida, you should be aware of Poisonwood. The black sap that drips from the peeling bark contains urushiol resin that causes severe skin irritation.

Poisonwood is an evergreen tree that can reach up to 35 feet high. It has a short trunk with stout arching limbs and drooping branches that form a spreading, rounded crown. It is often smaller (as a shrub) in pine forests and larger (as a tree) in the hammocks. You can easily recognize it by the drooping pinnately compound glossy green leaves that are outlined with a yellow border. There are commonly 5 leaflets that are 6 to 10 inches long and alternately arranged. The tree bark is reddish-brown and has dark, oily patches from the gummy sap. The bark is a lighter color when it is a shrub.

Avoid walking under poisonwood trees while it is raining or after recent rain. The sap is very sticky, and if you get any on your skin, it must be washed off with soap and water. Water alone will not dissolve the sap. You can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in the absence of soap. Note: Poisonwood is related to the Manchineel tree, one of the most poisonous trees in the world. The Machineel tree is rare in the U.S.; a few exist in southern Florida.

Found: Most common in South Florida near the Florida Keys and Everglades National Park.

Other Urushiol Plants

Many other plants in the Sumac family contain urushiols, such as Mango tree, Rengas tree, Lacquer tree, the shell of the cashew nut, and Ginkgo biloba. While these are less common or nonexistent in the U.S., you should know how to identify these plants if you are planning to hike in an area where they are known to grow.

Stinging nettle is another plant that can cause contact dermatitis. While the reaction is mild compared to the plants above, it can still produce blisters.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Stinging Nettle leaves

If you ever hike in the southeastern part of the U.S., you’ll almost certainly encounter stinging nettle, a perennial unbranched upright shrub, 2 – 4 feet tall with needle-covered leaves. It produces small stunning whitish flowers in the summer. If you touch the leaves, the stinging hairs will get into your skin and create a burning sensation and itching. Some people also develop blisters.

Stinging nettle has a long history of medicinal and culinary use. The young leaves offer excellent nutrition and can be eaten if cooked (cooking inactivates the harmful effect). If you can positively identify it, try eating the young leaves of stinging nettle on your next thru-hike. Pick the smaller leaves (less than 6″ tall) and use gloves when picking and handling them. The leaves have a flavor similar to spinach and are high in calcium, iron, vitamin A & vitamin C.

Found: Moist and shady areas across the U.S.

photo: webmd

Points to Know

  • “Leaves of three, let it be” is a common way to remember what poison ivy & poison oak look like; however, there are many other 3 leaflet plants which are harmless; if you blindly followed this, you could miss out on plants with edible berries, such as strawberries and raspberries!
  • The edges of the poisonous leaf can be smooth or contain teeth, and the top surface may be glossy or dull.
  • Leaflets can change color during the season – may be green in spring, yellow-green in summer, and red in fall.
  • Clusters of white berries develop during early summer, turning gray later in the season. The berries are smooth and hard to the touch.
  • Don’t “punish” a poisonous plant by burning it. The urushiol oil vaporizes and is toxic to the lungs if inhaled.

Factors to consider

  • Individuals have different tolerances when coming into contact with poisonous plants. Poison Ivy is poisonous to some while harmless to others.
  • The amount of contact time that is required to cause an allergic reaction can vary per individual or type of plant.
  • Keep an eye on your dog when hiking. A few minutes of your dog walking off the trail to sniff around is all it takes for him/her to brush up against one of these poisonous plants. Dogs are not allergic to the oil, and you won’t realize it until later when you snuggle with (or pet) your dog.
  • These plants rarely grow at higher elevations (above 5,000′).
  • You can not spread a rash by scratching it. The rash is spread only by the urushiol resin, which is not contained in the fluid within your blister. However, the oil can get on your fingers and spread that way. That is why you should wash your hands first and foremost.
  • Be careful when you do scratch the rash or blisters. Bacteria from under your fingernails can get into the blisters and cause a secondary bacterial infection, which can cause bigger problems on the trail. Keep your fingernails cut low if you have no discipline.

Article sources:

Plant identification: – Home

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Federal Noxious Weed
TDA Noxious Weed
TPWD Prohibited Exotic Species
Invasive Plant Atlas of the US
NOTE: means species is on that list.

Pueraria montana var. lobata


Synonym(s): Glycine javanica, Pueraria lobata, Pueraria thunbergiana
Family: Fabaceae (Pea Family)
Duration and Habit: Perennial Vine

Photographer: Northington, David K.
Source: Native Plant Information Network


Deciduous twining, trailing, mat-forming, ropelike woody leguminous vine, 35 to 100 feet (10 to 30 m) long with three-leaflet leaves. Large semiwoody tuberous roots reaching depths of 3 to 16 feet (1 to 5 m). Leaves and small vines dying with first frost and matted dead leaves persistent during winter. Kudzu is deciduous losing its leaves in the fall usually following a killing frost. Leaves are alternate and compound with three oval to nearly heart-shaped leaftlets each three to four inches long. Leaflets are dark green and may be entire or slightly lobed. Leaves and stems are hairy. Dense stands of Kudzu are characterized by thousands of single-colored plants covering everything in their range. Fragrant purple flowers are clustered in axillary racemes up to one foot long. Each floret is pea-like, and may be purple or purplish-red. The fragrance is described as grape-like. Flowers are rarely produced in open patches on flat ground but do form in mid-summer on vines draped over trees, fences or other objects. Kudzu fruits produced in the fall are hairy, flattened leguminous pods. Each pod bears only a few hard-coated seeds which may remain dormant and viable for several years before they germinate.

Native Lookalikes: Currently no information available here yet, or there are no native Texas species that could be confused with Kudzu.

Ecological Threat: Kudzu kills or degrades other plants by smothering them under a solid blanket of leaves, by girdling woody stems and tree trunks, and by breaking branches or uprooting entire trees and shrubs through the sheer force of its weight. Once established, Kudzu plants grow rapidly, extending as much as 60 feet per season at a rate of about one foot per day. This vigorous vine may extend 32-100 feet in length, with stems 1-4 inches in diameter. Kudzu roots are fleshy, with massive tap roots 7 inches or more in diameter, 6 feet or more in length, and weighing as much as 400 pounds. As many as thirty vines may grow from a single root crown.

Biology & Spread: The spread of kudzu in the U.S. is currently limited to vegetative expansion by runners and rhizomes and by vines that root at the nodes to form new plants. Kudzu also spreads somewhat through seeds, which are contained in pods, and which mature in the fall. However, only one or two viable seeds are produced per cluster of pods and these hard-coated seeds may not germinate for several years.

History: Kudzu was introduced in 1876 at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where it was used in a Japanese government display garden. It was planted widely as an ornamental vine for its abundant vegetation and sweet-smelling flowers. In the 1920’s it was promoted as a forage plant and by the 1930’s the Soil Conservation Service encouraged landowners to plant it for erosion control. The Civilian Conservation Corps planted it and farmers were paid as much as $8.00 per acre to plant fields of the vine in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Kudzu Clubs were established during the 1940’s to honor “the miracle vine”. Not until the 1950’s did the U.S. government cease advocating the use of this plant. In 1970 the USDA declared kudzu a noxious weed and in 1997 kudzu is made a federal noxious weed.

U.S. Habitat: Kudzu grows best in well-drained degraded or eroded land or in disturbed, sandy, deep-loam soils in full sun. It will, however, invade well-drained acid-soil forests. It does not grow well or at all in wet bottomlands or in thin hard-pan soils. It will not establish healthy grass cover, but may spread into such areas by running vines. (U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative Extension, MS) Kudzu can persist on the floor of a closed canopy forest (Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council, 2001).


U.S. Nativity: Introduced to U.S.

Native Origin: China & Japan (Alfred Rehder, Manual of Cultivated Trees and Shrubs: Hardy in North America, The MacMillan Co., New York (1967)); NatureServe Explorer

U.S. Present: AL, AR, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, MO, MS, NC, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV

Distribution: Kudzu is native to Japan and was introduced into the United States in 1876. Distribution within the United States extends from Connecticut to Missouri and Oklahoma, south to Texas and Florida (USDA Plants Database, 2000). Has been found in the Lower Galveston Bay watershed in Galveston and Liberty counties.


Invaders of Texas Map: Pueraria montana var. lobata
EDDMapS: Pueraria montana var. lobata
USDA Plants Texas County Map: Pueraria montana var. lobata

Invaders of Texas Observations

List All Observations of Pueraria montana var. lobata reported by Citizen Scientists

Native Alternatives

Native vines such as trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans), pipevine (Aristolochia macrophylla), passionflower (Passiflora lutea), trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), and native bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) have attractive flowers and fruits, provide food for wildlife and make excellent substitutes for kudzu. These plants should be used in landscaping and for land restoration where they are known to occur as natives.
Alternative species native to Texas include Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata), Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia).


There are multiple methods for chemical control of Kudzu. Persistent eradication of all roots is the key to controlling kudzu systemic herbicides will give the best effects. Miller et al. studied the effects of numerous chemicals over an eight-year period. Out of twenty five herbicides, Tordon 101 Mixture (2,4-D +picloram) and Tordon K(picloram liquid) were the most cost-effective treatments. Cut Stump Method: Use this method in areas where vines are established within or around non-target plants or where vines have grown into the canopy. Cut the stem 5 cm (2 in) above ground level. Immediately apply a 25% solution of triclopyr or glyphosate and water to the cross-section of the stem. This procedure remains effective at low temperatures as long as the ground is not frozen. A subsequent foliar application may be necessary to control new seedlings. Foliar Spray Method: This method could be used to control large populations. It may be neces-sary to precede foliar applications with stump treatments to reduce the risk of dam-aging non-target species. After the stems and leaves have been brought under control (i.e., all above ground portions of the plants have been effectively treated) further treatment should follow the Root Crown Method. Apply a 2% concentration of triclopyr or glyphosate and water to thoroughly wet all foliage. Do not apply so heavily that herbicide will drip off leaves. A 0.5% concentration of a non-ionic surfactant is recommended in order to penetrate leaf cuticle. Ambient air temperature should be above 65?F. Root Crown Method: Follow the young or resprouting stem of the plant to the root. Dig and cut into the root crown using a pulaski or similar tool. Apply a 50% glyphosate solution or 50% triclopyr solution to the main root crown and any below ground runners.


Text References

Online Resources

APWG WeedUS Database
The Quiet Invasion: A Guide to Invasive Plants of the Galveston Bay Area ( Lisa Gonzalez and Jeff DallaRosa. Houston Advanced Research Center, 2006.

Search Online

Google Search: Pueraria montana var. lobata
Google Images: Pueraria montana var. lobata
NatureServe Explorer: Pueraria montana var. lobata
USDA Plants: Pueraria montana var. lobata
Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States: Pueraria montana var. lobata
Bugwood Network Images: Pueraria montana var. lobata

Last Updated: 2005-10-22 by DEW

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Thursday – July 09, 2015

From: Ringgold, GA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Poisonous Plants, Vines
Title: Does Virginia creeper cause a rash?
Answered by: Anne Van Nest


Does Virginia creeper cause a rash to everyone or those who are only allergic as in an allergy like a peanut allergy? Is it something that should be avoided like poison ivy? And does the sap stick to things or can it transfer from item to item?


Great questions! From the website, here’s some information about this Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), a native vine … A woody, deciduous vine, Virginia creeper can be high-climbing or trailing, 3-40 ft.; the structure on which it climbs is the limiting factor. Virginia creeper climbs by means of tendrils with disks that fasten onto bark or rock. Its leaves, with 5 leaflets, occasionally 3 or 7, radiating from the tip of the petiole, coarsely toothed, with a pointed tip, and tapered to the base, up to 6 inches long. Leaves provide early fall color, turning brilliant mauve, red and purple. Inconspicuous flowers small, greenish, in clusters, appearing in spring. Fruit bluish, about 1/4 inch in diameter.

Virginia creeper can be used as a climbing vine or ground cover, its leaves carpeting any surface in luxuriant green before turning brilliant colors in the fall. Its tendrils end in adhesive-like tips, giving this vine the ability to cement itself to walls and therefore need no support. The presence of adhesive tips instead of penetrating rootlets also means it doesn’t damage buildings the way some vines do. It is one of the earliest vines to color in the fall. A vigorous grower, it tolerates most soils and climatic conditions.
In years past, children learned a rhyme to help distinguish Virginia Creeper from the somewhat similar-looking and highly toxic Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans): Leaves of three, let it be; Leaves of five, let it thrive. Poison Ivy leaflets are normally in groups of three, while those of Virginia creeper are in groups of five. The berries of Virginia Creeper can be harmful if ingested, however, and the rest of the plant contains raphides, which irritate the skin of some people.

Warning: POISONOUS PARTS: Berries. Highly Toxic, May be Fatal if Eaten! Symptoms include nausea, abdominal pain, bloody vomiting and diarrhea, dilated pupils, headache, sweating, weak pulse, drowsiness, twitching of face. Toxic Principle: Oxalic acid and possibly others. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.) Also, the plants tissues contain raphides, which can irritate the skin of some people. It is far less likely to irritate, and less irritating than, Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), though, which it somewhat resembles and with which it is often confused.

So, to answer your question, Virginia creeper does cause a rash for some people but not nearly as many people as poison ivy does and not as severe. There are references online that say that Virginia creeper only is a problem with sensitive people. There is no correlation between a rash caused by oxalic acid (also found in uncooked rhubarb, spinach, chard and beet greens) and and the allergic reaction caused by a peanut allergy. Plants for a Future notes that “The tissues of the plant contain microscopic, irritating needle-like crystals called raphides.” And the Regional Poison Control Centre at the University of California, Davis Medical Center has this information about Oxalates: “The juice or sap of these plants contains oxalate crystals. Chewing these
plants may cause pain and irritation of the mouth, lips, and tongue. Swelling of the
throat may cause breathing difficulties.”

From the Image Gallery

Virginia creeper
Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Virginia creeper
Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Virginia creeper
Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Virginia creeper
Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Virginia creeper
Parthenocissus quinquefolia

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Toxic Principle Oxalate crystals (raphides), and possibly other compounds may be responsible for the signs of gastroenteritis reported in children eating the leaves or berries. Similar toxicity has been reported in budgerigars fed the leaves. Description Parthenocissus are perennial, deciduous, woody vines, with tendrils with terminal pads that enable the creeper to climb on walls, trees and fences. The leaves are palmate, compound with 5 leaflets that are serrate. The leaves turn bright red in the Fall. Small greenish flowers are produced in paniculate cymes. Fruits are blue to black berries with 1-4 seeds. Boston ivy (P. tricuspidata)is a similar species.
Gastrointestinal Excessive salivation, and vomiting can be expected
Special Notes Virginia creeper is of minimal risk to animals, but it is commonly grown in people’s gardens and the ripe fruits are attractive to pets and children. References 1.Lampe KF, McCann MA. AMA Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants. Am Med Assoc, Chicago, Illinois 1985,197. 2. Shropshire CM, Stauber E, Arai M: Evaluation of selected plants for acute toxicosis in budgerigars. J Am Vet Med Assoc1992, 200:936-939.

Parthenocissus quinquefolia

  • Attributes: Genus: Parthenocissus Species: quinquefolia Family: Vitaceae Life Cycle: Woody Country Or Region Of Origin: USA, NC Distribution: eastern and central North America south to Mexico Fire Risk Rating: extreme flammability Wildlife Value: Its fruits are eaten by songbirds, squirrels, opossum, raccoons, and other mammals. Play Value: Wildlife Food Source Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems): Virginia creeper is pollution and salt tolerant, and moderately resistant to deer damage. Climbing Method: Tendrils
  • Whole Plant Traits: Plant Type: Ground Cover Native Plant Poisonous Vine Leaf Characteristics: Broadleaf Evergreen Habit/Form: Climbing Creeping Growth Rate: Rapid Texture: Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions: Light: Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day) Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight) Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day) Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours) Soil Drainage: Good Drainage Moist Occasionally Dry NC Region: Coastal Mountains Piedmont Usda Plant Hardiness Zone: 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit: Fruit Color: Blue Purple/Lavender Fruit Value To Gardener: Showy Display/Harvest Time: Fall Summer Fruit Type: Berry Fruit Length: < 1 inch Fruit Width: < 1 inch Fruit Description: blue-black berries (to 3/8” diameter) are hidden by the foliage and are often not visible until autumn leaf drop
  • Flowers: Flower Color: Green White Flower Inflorescence: Insignificant Flower Bloom Time: Summer Flower Size: < 1 inch Flower Description: Greenish white flowers appear in late spring to early summer on the upper leaf axils of the Virginia creeper, but are generally hidden by the foliage and are ornamentally insignificant.
  • Leaves: Leaf Characteristics: Broadleaf Evergreen Leaf Color: Green Purple/Lavender Red/Burgundy Leaf Feel: Smooth Leaf Value To Gardener: Showy Deciduous Leaf Fall Color: Purple/Lavender Red/Burgundy Leaf Type: Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately) Leaf Arrangement: Alternate Hairs Present: No Leaf Length: 3-6 inches Leaf Width: 3-6 inches Leaf Description: The Virginia creeper has alternate, compound-palmate leaves (usually 5 saw-toothed leaflets, each leaflet to 6” long) that emerge purplish in spring, mature to dull green in summer and change to attractive shades of purple and crimson red in fall.
  • Bark: Bark Color: Light Brown Light Gray Bark Description: Gray-brown with aerial roots and tendrils
  • Stem: Stem Is Aromatic: No
  • Landscape: Landscape Location: Vertical Spaces Attracts: Songbirds Resistance To Challenges: Deer Pollution Salt Problems: Frequent Disease Problems Messy Poisonous to Humans Weedy
  • Poisonous to Humans: Poison Severity: High Poison Symptoms: Nausea, abdominal pain, bloody vomiting, and diarrhea, dilated pupils, headache, sweating, weak pulse, drowsiness, twitching of the face Poison Toxic Principle: Oxalic acid and possibly others Causes Contact Dermatitis: No Poison Part: Fruits

Poisonous plants cause the most common allergic reactions to the skin, affecting as many as 50 million Americans each year, according to the American Skin Association. University of Alabama at Birmingham associate professor of Emergency Medicine, Walter Schrading, M.D., says it is important people are able to identify poisonous plants, prevent an allergic reaction and treat skin irritations after contact.

Identification of poisonous plants

The three most common types of poisonous plants are poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. All three plants produce the same resin called urushiol, which helps the plant retain water. The colorless resin exists on the stems and leaves of these plants, causing toxic effects within 24-48 hours of coming in contact with skin.

Poison ivy is a three-leaf plant that is found on the East Coast in moist, shady areas. It is a vine plant that often grows up trees.

Similarly, poison oak is a three-leaf plant found on the West Coast and some Southern states, growing in shrubs. The plant may have clusters of green-yellow or white berries on the vine-like plant.

Poison sumac is found in wet, marshy regions around riverbanks and looks like a small tree or shrub, sometimes growing 15 feet tall or more. The stem has seven to 13 smooth, oval leaves that are arranged in pairs.

“The adage, ‘Leaves of three, let me be,’ is a good one stick by,” Schrading said. “When working in the yard or exploring outdoors, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and the plants that you come in contact with.”

Virginia creeper is often mistaken for poison ivy. The imposter plant looks like poison ivy, but has five leaves. Often, the two plants grow together. Although it is not as allergenic as poison ivy, raphides, the sap of Virginia creeper, can cause skin irritation and blisters in sensitive people when it punctures the skin.

Prevention of an allergic reaction

Poisonous plants are a common cause for skin rashes. Urushiol is found on the poisonous plants year-round, even when the plants are brown and not fully grown. Precaution should be taken even in the fall and winter months.

“Prevention is key when you are outdoors,” Schrading said. “If you are in an area that contains weeds or overgrowth, it is best to take precautions to protect your skin from interacting with the resin that comes off the plants.”

A few precautions to take:

  • When outdoors in wooded areas, wear long pants and long sleeves to avoid contact with poisonous plants.
  • If you are gardening and suspect poisonous plants in the area, use gloves to extract the plant.
  • Use Ivy Block, an over-the-counter topical containing Bentoquatam, which protects skin from urushiol. It should be applied every four hours.

Contact dermatitis

The severity of the rash will depend on the person and his or her allergic reaction. There is a group of patients who have a genetic predisposition to an extreme reaction based on their heredity.

Contact dermatitis is the skin rash caused from exposure to poisonous plants. It is a red, linear rash that burns or itches, and oddly enough, some symptoms may not occur until 10-14 days after contact. Severe symptoms will include small bubbles forming on the skin, swelling around the contact dermatitis, skin leaks and skin crusts.

Typically, the extremities — or legs and arms — come in contact with urushiol. The rash can spread to areas that may not have been exposed due to touching the plant, like touching or scratching the ears, nose, etc. If the resin is on clothing, it can be transferred if bare skin comes in contact with the clothing item.

Pets can also transfer the resin from the plant to humans. It rarely affects pets, as their fur acts as a protective barrier.

“If a dog brushes up against a plant, then you pet the dog, you come in contact with urushiol and could have an allergic reaction,” Schrading said. “If you have an unexplained rash, this could be the culprit.”

Treatment for skin contacted by urushiol

More than 85 percent of the population will have some type of allergic reaction when their skin comes in contact with urushiol. Ten to 15 percent of those people will have a severe reaction to the poisonous plants.

“When people have contact dermatitis, they tend to scratch the rash, damaging the skin. This becomes a vicious cycle and keeps the skin from healing fully,” Schrading explained.

If you suspect that you have come in contact with a poisonous plant, rinse the area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol as quickly as possible. If using rubbing alcohol on children, use sparingly.

Once you have contact dermatitis, it will take one to two weeks minimum to heal. Here are a few options for treatment at home:

  • Use a topical cortisol steroid like hydrocortisone, available over the counter, to treat the rash.
  • Calamine lotion serves as a soothing agent and promotes drying of the skin to heal the rash.
  • Aluminum acetate paired with a cool compress provides relief during the blistering stage.
  • Soaking for 15-20 minutes in an oatmeal bath can soothe the itching sensation.

If the allergic reaction spreads to a lot of the body and swelling of the face and eyes is experienced, a physician can prescribe an oral steroid to help promote healing. Seek medical treatment if the allergic reaction is on the face, as cortisol may not be safe to put on the face.

Poison Ivy is out in full force right now. Its viney being can be noted in local fields, climbing up trees, taking over gardens, and growing roadside all across the Eastern Shore. The three-leaved bandit is very hard to eradicate, serves no real purpose as a plant, and makes most who come into contact with it break out in a horrendous rash. Another native plant that resembles Poison is equally abundant but doesn’t cause any side effects after touch. Want to know the difference?

While hiking recently, I decided that it was worth my while to learn which plants I could touch and which plans I should make a point not to get anywhere near – thus, leading to a comparison of Virginia Creeper and Poison Ivy. My objective of this column today is to make sure that you know the difference between the two, also.

Virginia Creeper generally has four or five leaves but sometimes may have only three. Some juvenile plants have only three leaves. One noticeable difference between Poison Ivy and Virginia Creeper, if you’re willing to get close enough to look, is that the vine of Virginia Creeper is woody. The wood-like vine has simple tendrils that hold the plant to its ‘host’. The Virginia Creepers climbs up or along other plants, brush, trees, or supports nearby. Deep blue berries can be found on Virginia Creeper’s during the fall.

After sharing a photo of what I thought was Poison Ivy covering a tree in my yard last fall, Dave Wilson, Executive Director of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program said “Touch that plant all you want. It’s Virginia Creeper. Dive on in if you wish.”

I did some research and it seemed as though Wilson proved to be right. I did, out of curiosity, bravely touch the plant while gardening a few days later and didn’t break out in a rash. Some cruel joke that would have been.

Birds are greatly attracted to the bright blue berries and red foliage – one that hides its underlying fruits. It’s rumored that 35 species of birds on the Eastern Shore eat the fruit from the Virginia Creeper. Thrushes, woodpeckers, warblers, and vireos can often be seen making frequent visits to Creeper vines.

During the autumn months, both plants turn an eye-catching vibrant red color. Both Virginia Creeper and Poison Ivy may be found naturalized on your property or in wooded areas locally. The plants are essentially planted by birds that consume their seeds and then release them back onto the soil via their droppings.

The featured image is one that I snapped of some brilliant red Virginia Creeper last November. About the photo, florist Marcy Almoney commented, “That’s definitely Virginia Creeper. Not Poison Ivy.”

After asking around, I even heard that some brave florists actually use Virginia Creeper in floral arrangement during the fall because of its beautiful bright coloring.

Poison Ivy will always have three leaves. Its leaf pattern will always be the same; center leaf stem being longer than the other two and greater in size. During the fall, Poison Ivy develops and drops greenish-white berries. And of course, Poison Ivy is known for its itchy red rash caused on the skin after coming in contact with the plant.

Hairy vines that wrap around trees are leftover from Poison Ivy. They are a tell-tale sign of Poison in the area. Living Poison Ivy can sprout from this dark, thick, hairy vine. Typically, these mature vines mean that it’s a reasonable time to remove Poison Ivy – if you dare. Typically the winter months are the “best” months to extract Poison Ivy from your yard or garden. The leaves and vines can still possess oil that causes a rash. The climbing variety of Poison Ivy looks very similar to standard poison Ivy.

Oil secreted by Poison Ivy is called Urushiol. Urushiol can be spread by direct contact or through the air. The oil can even be dispersed through the air when Poison Ivy plants are burned. If inhaled, Urushiol can cause a terrible internal reaction that will need to be treated immediately. It’s highly suggested that Poison plants are never burned.

Poison Sumac is a native vine of shrub of the Eastern Shore. The sap of this plan contains Urushiol. The oil is only secreted when the plant’s tissue is damaged. Sumac grows clusters of red berries that grow upright. As mentioned above, Poison Ivy grows single greenish-white berries. Poison Sumac prefers to grow in very wet, flooded soils and can typically be found in bar or marsh lands.

Yet another form of Poison calls the Southeastern US its home: Poison Oak. Poison Oak looks just like Poison Ivy. Only difference is that this form doesn’t climb things. Poison Oak causes the same miseries as Poison Ivy.

Some people appear to be immune to Poison Ivy, Sumac, or Oak and are lucky enough to have never had its terrible rash. Just remember, that like any other allergy, it is possible to lose immunity. Don’t be foolish when hiking, gardening, or spending time outdoors. It is best to avoid brightly colored red leaves of three at all costs.

Don’t learn your lesson the hard way. Use these tips and plant characteristics to identify ‘good’ or ‘bad’ vines seen frequently in our wooded area. Leaves of three, let it be! Leaves of five – ah, it’s probably just Creeper.

A Guide to Poison Ivy, Sumac, Oak & Virginia Creeper

Virginia Creeper Poison Ivy Poison Sumac Poison Oak
* Generally 4 or 5 leaves * Always 3 leaves * Always 3 leaves * Always 3 leaves
* No leaf stems * Center leaf stem is longer than other two * Clusters of red berries in fall * Red leaves in fall
* Red leaves in the fall * Center leaf is larger than others * Berries grow upright * Does not climb
* Deep blue berries in the fall * Climbing vine * Climbing vine * Grows individual plants in soil
* Climbs ‘host’ trees, shrubs, or nearby items * Red leaves in fall * Grows in very wet soil * Sometimes has greenish-white berries
* Harmless to the touch * Greenish-white berries in fall * Causes itchy rash after contact occurs with damaged, open plant * Causes itchy rash after contact occurs
* Causes itchy rash after contact occurs

Photo by Ami Reist.

Disclaimer: Some individuals may experience an allergic reaction to Virginia Creeper. Please consult a professional for clarification if you are uncertain.

To read other Outdoor Articles by Ami on ShoreBread, follow the links below:

  • Stand Up Paddle Boarding: SUP on the Shore
  • Paul Leifer Trail: A Stroll through Snow Hill’s Bald Cypress Swamps
  • Remains of Assateague’s Hunting History
  • Herring Creek Nature Park – West Ocean City
  • Willet’s Walk: A Trail & a Tale for Local Children

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