Stillwater News Press

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July 13, 2014

The Outdoor Almanac: Virginia Creeper most misidentified plant

STILLWATER, Okla. — Perhaps one of the most commonly misidentified plants I encounter is Virginia creeper.

This vine grows throughout Oklahoma and the eastern United states. It is often mistaken for poison ivy. While both plants are vines, they can be readily distinguished as poison ivy has three leaflets and Virginia creeper has five.

The adage, “leaves of three, let it be,” is an effective way to remember which leaf configuration to avoid.

Virginia creeper is an important plant for many wildlife species. White-tailed deer consume the foliage of Virginia creeper, birds eat its purplish fruit during the fall and several species of birds will nest in the dense foliage the plant provides.

Incidentally, poison ivy also is an important wildlife plant despite the bane it is to humans. Beyond the value to wildlife, Virginia creeper is a wonderful landscape plant. It can grow in both deep shade and full sunlight, although the foliage is larger and a darker green in shaded lawns.

The fruit, while small, provides nice winter color as well, until birds consume them. Another nice attribute is Virginia creeper is drought and heat tolerant and will grow in a wide variety of soil types.

While this plant can be found commercially, it is readily available along roadsides where it can be transplanted, assuming enough root biomass can be retained.  

Dwayne Elmore is Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist in the department ofnatural resource ecology and management.

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