Monday, July 21, 2008

Poison Ivy, Virginia Creeper, wild blackberries

Here's my first entry for the 100 Species Challenge:

1. Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), a good one to be able to identify. It's trickier than you might think. This site shows pictures of poison ivy in all seasons, and in its most common and some uncommon forms. These pictures show creeping poison ivy and climbing poison ivy in my yard. We've got some climbing poison ivy with big, fat, hairy vines. One of the neighbors called it "Old Man's Beard."

What I knew: Leaves of three, let it be.
What I learned: It looks a lot like Virginia Creeper, except Virginia Creeper has five leaves. It looks a lot like wild blackberries, except wild blackberries have thorns and serrated edges. The berries of poison ivy are a good food source for birds.

2. Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

We had this in our yard in Florida. It climbed up palm trees, fences, and the Norfolk Island Pine. It died back in the winter, even in South Florida. I had to keep cutting it out of the Norfolk Island Pine so it wouldn't kill the tree and topple it. The gardener I talked to at the North Carolina Botanical Garden didn't seem to think Virginia Creeper was a problem plant. There's plenty of it in our yard here, too.

3. Wild Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus)

We had wild blackberries growing across the street when I was a kid. Mom would dig all our winter clothes out of the closet so we wouldn't get scratched by the brambles, and we'd go out to pick berries. We would eat bowls of blackberries with milk and sugar, and Mom would make blackberry jelly. When I grew up and started doing my own grocery shopping, I was shocked at how much blackberries cost for just a little, tiny container. And we used to get all we could eat, free.

There are some big blackberry canes in our yard here, and little sprouts popping up everywhere. I've only picked one tiny berry, though. I think most of the brambles are in too much shade to really flower and fruit well. Or maybe we can blame it on last summer's drought, or the fact that all the bees are disappearing. Maybe I can encourage some of the canes that are in sunnier areas. The state of North Carolina would probably rather I didn't though. We're one of several states that considers blackberries to be noxious weeds. Weeds or not, some states have wild blackberry festivals. If I get a decent crop of blackberries in my yard, I'll have my own festival, and invite all my friends over for berries.

1 comment:

Fiddler said...

Hi Ellen,

Love the three different "look-alikes" posted together. Will be on the look-out here in New England for them. Don't know if Virginia Creeper grows in MA, but will find out. Poison Ivy will be in my 100, I'm sure! My older son and our dog seem to be especially good at finding it.

Best regards,