As the snow and ice begins to melt, bits of green can be seen on the forest floor. One plant responsible to adding color to the forest at this time of year is Virginia Creeper, which is beginning to sprout.
This plant is commonly misidentified as Poison Ivy due to its similar ability to climb upon trees. The easy way to tell the difference is the “Leaves of three, let them be,” slogan for Poison Ivy; Virginia Creeper has five leaflets.
It is a prolific climber, in the Summer it can reach heights of 60 to 90 feet. It climbs smooth surfaces using small forked tendrils tipped with small strongly adhesive pads.
The berries of this plant are eaten by many animals, especially birds, including: bluebirds, cardinals, chickadees, woodpeckers and turkey. Other animals, such as mice, skunks, chipmunks, squirrels and deer eat them too.
It’s easy to see from its fruit that Virginia Creeper is in the grape family. Though other animals enjoy eating it, it is poisonous to humans.
Since it is able to climb brick and stone walls, Virginia Creeper is widely planted as an ornamental. Its leaves turn a vibrant scarlet color in the fall.