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ORRIN MORRIS: Virginia creeper reaches high into trees, provides ground cover for animals

Parthenocissus quinquefolia: You may know this native wildflower by names other than Virginia creeper, such as Woodvine or American ivy.

Parthenocissus quinquefolia: You may know this native wildflower by names other than Virginia creeper, such as Woodvine or American ivy.

The drought has been hard on the wildflower kingdom, as it has been in every other facet of nature. Most of the trees are finally showing good color, but for some, the leaves are brown and curling.I checked weather records and found that the average first frost for this area was Oct. 12, about a month ago. When our first frost finally does occur this year, the remaining leaves may give us more of the brilliant fall colors, for which we are yearning.

The desktop photo I have on my computer was taken one sunrise a month ago. Deep in the woods below my house was a mighty white oak that was aglow with red.

I got out my digital camera and zoomed in on the sight. As I had expected, it was a Virginia creeper. The bright red leaves of the vine had practically engulfed about 20 feet of the 80-foot oak.

Back then, I occasionally caught glimpses of other plants and trees trying to show their autumn colors, but no sight compared to the excitement I felt at that moment.

Why would such a simple display stir my emotions? Because this plant was defying the negative mood of this extended drought with the message, "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever" (Psalm 118:29).VIRGINIA CREEPER

Parthenocissus quinquefoliaYou may know this native wildflower by names other than Virginia creeper, such as woodvine or American ivy. It has a five-leaf cluster as the vine ascends the wall, the fence, or a tree. The individual leaves are serrated, as illustrated.

Virginia creeper blooms in July and August. The flowers are tiny and brownish-green so they will not likely adorn anyone's dinner table.

The real beauty of the Virginia creeper occurs at the onset of the fall colors. In late September or early October, you will notice its brilliant crimson leaves reaching 50 or 60 feet upward on pines and hardwoods whose trunks have a minimum of branches.

As a ground cover, the leaves form a 12-inch "roof" for small animals and birds to hide from predators.

Virginia creeper is used for erosion control by several states; it does not coexist with kudzu. Wildlife, especially songbirds, thrive on the small blue fruit.

With careful management, this woody, deciduous vine can be developed as an ornamental on a garden trellis. The bark has been used by pharmaceuticals to treat dropsy, as a tonic, and as an expectorant.

I must repeat, "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever" (Psalm 118:29).

A color copy of this wildflower is available at www.rockdalecitizen.com. Search Orrin Morris.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. Notecards are available of the wildflowers published in the Citizen. His email is odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com or call him at 770-929-3697.