Parthenocissus inserta (Woodbine)
|Also known as:||Grape-woodbine, Thicket Creeper, Virginia Creeper|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade, sun;|
|Bloom season:||June - July|
|Plant height:||to 70 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FAC MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Branching clusters 3 to 6 inches long, the cluster branches forking, without a well-defined central stalk, and 10 to 75 flowers per cluster.
Flowers are about ¼ inch across, greenish yellow with 5 (occasionally 6) oblong-elliptic petals that are boat-shaped at the tip, and initially spreading then become strongly bent back (reflexed). In the center are an equal number of stamens with creamy yellow tips. Flower stalks are up to ¼ inch long, hairless, green to reddish.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are alternate, palmately compound with 5 leaflets, occasionally 4, rarely 7, the leaflets all about the same size or the middle leaflet largest, up to 5 inches long and 2½ inches wide, and the end leaflets smallest. Leaflets are mostly oval-elliptic, usually widest at or above the middle, usually coarsely toothed at least on the tip half, tapering to a sharply pointed tip, mostly wedge-shaped at the base, stalkless to short-stalked. The upper surface is shiny green when fresh, though usually loses its sheen with age, and mostly hairless or with a few sparse hairs; the lower surface is paler and hairless to short-hairy. Leaflet stalks are hairless.
The compound leaf stalk is up to 6 inches long and hairless. Opposite the stalk is a tendril branched 2 or 3 times, the branches each 1½ to 6 inches long that entwine around surrounding vegetation or embed in cracks and crevices for support. New stems are hairless, initially green to yellowish brown, becoming reddish brown and woody with pale lenticels (pores). Older bark is gray-brown. Stems can reach nearly 5 inches in diameter, are usually sprawling across the ground and over shrubs, also climbing trees, fences and other structures, may root at the nodes and become the dominant groundcover.
The flower stalks elongate slightly and turn bright red as fruit develops. Fruit is a round, blue-black berry about 3/8 inch in diameter, containing 4 seeds, maturing in late summer.
Woodbine, also known as Parthenocissus vitacea, and Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) are often treated as one species, the names interchangeable, but they are indeed different with a couple obvious distinctions and several subtle differences. The obvious distinctions are: Virginia Creeper has aerial roots, hairy leaf stalks and new stems, and tendrils with up to 10 short branches (1½ inches long or less) that eventually develop flat adhesive disks or pads at the tip; Woodbine lacks aerial roots, has hairless stalks and stems, and its tendrils branch only 2 or 3 times, the branches more than 1½ inches long and not normally developing disks at the tip, but wedge themselves into cracks and expand to hold themselves in place (this expansion may appear to be a disk, but is not adhesive, and according to Welby Smith's “Trees and Shrubs of Minnesota”, Woodbine may actually develop the disks on occasion).
There are several more subtle differences between the two. Virginia Creeper tends to be high-climbing, though may sprawl when there is nothing to climb, where Woodbine is more often sprawling but does also climb up trees, fences and other structures. Virginia Creeper flower clusters usually have a well-defined central stalk (not always an obvious trait) and often 150+ flowers in a cluster, where Woodbine has forked branches without a central axis and tends to be fewer flowered, only to 75 flowers per cluster. Virginia Creeper leaflets are usually dull green, though may be shiny when young, where Woodbine leaflets tend to be shiny but can lose their sheen with age. Both surfaces of Virginia Creeper leaflets are usually stiff hairy, especially along the veins, where Woodbine leaflets are more often hairless, especially along veins on the upper surface, though the lower surface of leaflets can be short-hairy. All of these traits are variable, so any one of them should not be taken individually, but in combination with each other and the more obvious differences. Look first for the aerial roots, hairs on stems and stalks, and number and length of tendril branches. Go from there.
Note that many references state the leaflets of Woodbine are hairless, but many plants we sampled were distinctly hairy on the lower surface. Hairs are more easily seen when the leaf is folded over.
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- climbing Woodbine
- crawling Woodbine
- fruiting Woodbine
- scan of leaves
- leaf with 7 leaflets
- shiny, nearly toothless leaves
- lower leaf surface may be short-hairy
- fall color
Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk take at various locations across Minnesota.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?
on: 2017-05-24 12:06:18
Very pervasive here. It's not shy about growing anywhere there is dirt.
on: 2017-07-15 11:48:38
This is growing along my property line. Have to ripe it back off my lilacs every fall AND it attracts Japanese beetles like crazy. Once they've stripped 80% of the woodbine leaves, they move on to my raspberry canes and, oddly, my milkweed.
on: 2017-07-15 13:03:51
Terrie, everything attracts Japanese beetles. They'll strip wild grape bare, too. And anything in the rose family (they're devouring our raspberries now). And anything in the evening primrose family. Etc., etc., etc.
on: 2017-08-04 18:52:21
I spent15 minutes on the web trying to find out the name of the 5 leaf vine growing on my property. I had concluded I had Virginia Creeper. Then, I saw a small reference to Woodbine, expanded my search and found this site. Wow, good job! Excellent. Helped me a lot by careful description and comparison of these two vines. Thanks. I actually planted this vine many years ago and forgot what I had planted. So it was not growing "wild". One of the things that helped in differentiating is that Woodbine "can't grow on smooth surfaces" and in fact, I have found this true. It climbs pretty well but, for instance, to get it to grow up a telephone post I needed to cover the post with "chicken wire". It tries to grab the rough old post but the first strong wind and it blows free.
on: 2018-06-21 07:15:03
Lots and lots of this on our place overlooking the north branch of the Root river.
on: 2018-07-16 16:01:28
It's taking over my house this year. Growing everywhere
on: 2018-07-22 21:27:20
I planted this several years ago and saw only small amount of growth, enough to cover some bare soil near our yard. It recently has spread and I would like to get rid of it. Any suggestions?
on: 2018-07-31 20:19:14
It has taken over all the fences around my raspberry patch.
on: 2019-07-14 22:05:24
I believe we have it on our property creeps in ground and into trees. Very prolific.
on: 2020-05-04 23:23:48
I can't believe it's native, impossible to control in my yard. I don't want to use chemicals and haven't for years but am thinking it might be an option soon.
on: 2020-06-14 21:38:37
Very invasive plant for me. It has killed a 20'cedar and was working on a spruce and Norway before I caught it and destroyed the vines.
on: 2020-06-21 17:36:08
This is one of the host plants for the 8 spotted forester moth--a dayflying moth that is black with white and yellow spots and red tufts on the legs. It is quite lovely. The caterpillar is also quite colorful. The vine just creeps along the edges of my flower bed, doing no harm, and I enjoy the pretty moths.
on: 2021-02-04 13:27:12
We have this growing all over the woods. It's never overly aggressive, and it turns a beautiful color in fall.
on: 2021-02-24 11:07:14
on: 2021-06-01 09:28:28
Grows wild here, very hard to keep it gone. Seems to re-root with the smallest pieces.
on: 2022-05-15 19:39:06
This is killing off trees in my yard. Any idea on how to limit its growth? I hate to kill a native species, but I need the trees. I have tried to control growth by pruning and pulling out sections, but it seems to come back really quickly. Also, are the berries edible? If they are, what eats them?
on: 2022-05-16 07:01:41
Elisabeth, the fruit is not edible - it won't kill you but will make you sick. Leave it for the birds. This has an extensive root system so pruning won't do any serious damage - either dig it all out (very difficult to do) or use chemicals, and multiple treatments will likely be necessary. As to which chemicals, google is your friend.
on: 2022-07-05 14:29:55
We have noticed a huge number of small pollinators attracted to our woodbine. Is this typical? You don't see many sources mention this as a benefit.
on: 2022-07-05 14:36:06
John, most native flowering plants get insect visitors of one kind or another. They are not always well-documented.