Parthenocissus vitacea has five to seven foliate, palmately divided and coarsely serrate leaves. The tendrils coil to attach to the host plant over which they climb. Parthenocissus vitacea is found in canyons along creekbeds at middle elevations. The flowers are greenish white and small in compound cymes.
Perennial woody vine to 9.2 m long Stem: spreading rather than high-climbing, reddish to grayish brown, becoming brown to gray, smooth. Leaves: alternate, palmately compound with five leaflets and a long grooved stalk. Leaflets are shiny green above, paler beneath, 6.3 - 10 cm long, 3.8 - 6.4 cm wide, egg-shaped to lance-shaped with a pointed tip and wedge-shaped base, coarsely toothed, hairless or slightly hairy along veins beneath. Inflorescence: borne opposite the leaves on current season's growth, forking into two (sometimes three) main branches that continue to fork. Flowers: ten to 60 per inflorescence, yellowish green, with five stamens extending beyond the five reflexed petals. Fruit: a thin-fleshed berry, red-stalked, about 1 cm long, spherical but slightly flattened, with four seeds. Seeds are light brown, 0.6 cm across and egg-shaped. Tendrils: few-branched, usually lacking adhesive disks at the tips.
Similar species: Parthenocissus tricuspidata has leaves with either three lobes or three leaflets. Parthenocissus quinquefolia has tendrils with adhesive disks, an inflorescence with a central axis and grows in more shaded areas.
Flowering: mid June to early August
Habitat and ecology: Fairly common in somewhat open areas, where it creeps over small trees, shrubs, and fences or grows along the ground.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Notes: Birds eat the fruit of this species, while deer feed on the leaves, stems, and fruit. Honeybees are attracted to the flowers.
Etymology: Parthenocissus comes from the Greek words parthenos, meaning virgin, and kissos meaning ivy. Vitacea comes from the Latin word Vitis, meaning vine.
Author: The Morton Arboretum
Welsh et al. 1993, Martin and Hutchins 1980, Kearney and Peebles 1969, FNA 2016, Allred and Ivey 2016
Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Vine General: High-climbing or trailing woody vines with smooth bark; it climbs using tendrils with 2-4 branches that have nonadhesive tips. Leaves: Alternate along the stems, on petioles about as long as the blades; leaves palmately compound with 5 leaflets (rarely 6 leaflets); leaflets oblong-obovate to elliptic, 4-10 cm long and 2-4 cm wide, with coarsely serrate margins; upper leaflet surface lustrous and shiny; lower surface green. Flowers: Small and greenish to reddish green, arranged in a dichotomously branched cyme without a main central axis; calyx cup-shaped and shallowly 5-lobed; petals 5 per flower. Fruits: Berry 8-10 mm in diameter, black. Ecology: Found in moist canyons, woods and thickets, from 3,000-7,000 ft (914-2134 m); flowers May-June. Distribution: Throughout N. Amer., except not present in the Southeast. Notes: This taxon is considered to be native to the Southwest. It is staggeringly similar to Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), a vine which is native to the eastern US, in cultivation, and considered to be introduced in the West. These are the differences: P. vitacea has tendrils with 2-4 branches which lack enlarged tips (i.e. adhesive discs for climbing); and the inflorescence branches dichotomously, thus lacking an obvious central axis. In contrast, P. quinquefolia has tendrils with 4-12 branches, and those branches have enlarged tips with adhesive discs for climbing; also the inflorescence is divergently branched, and has a distinct, zig-zagging central axis. To make matters more complicated, there is a third, widely used name in this complex, P. inserta, which some authorities (including Flora of North America, 2016) consider to be synonymous with the eastern P. quinquefolia, while other authorities, including Flora Neomexicana (Allred and Ivey 2012) consider to be synonymous with the western P. vitacea. Ethnobotany: Berries were eaten; berry juice was mixed with white clay to make body paint; an infusion of the leaves and berries was applied to swollen arms or legs; woody stems were used on ramadas for shade; also used ceremonially. Etymology: Parthenocissus comes from Greek words parthenos, a virgin, and kissos, ivy; vitacea means vine-like. Editor: SBuckley 2010, AHazelton 2017
Much like no 1 [Parthenocissus quinquefolia (L.) Planch.], tendrils few- branched, almost invariably without adhesive disks; lfls more strongly toothed, glossy-green above, glabrous to thinly pubescent beneath; infl forked at the summit of the peduncle, the 2(3) branches divergent, each producing a broad, rounded cluster of fls that may be again dichotomous; 2n=40. Moist soil; Que. and n. N. Engl. to N.J., w. to Man. and Ind., thence to sw. Wyo., s. Utah, Ariz., and Tex. June. (P. inserta, perhaps misapplied; Psedera vitacea)
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.