Do you have vines, growing up through your trees that you did not plant?
The most common native vines are the Grape Vine, Virginia Creeper and Poison Ivy that were seeded by bird droppings. The reason we are seeing more vines in our wooded area, and possibly in our yards is the direct result of the Emerald Ash Borer. The vines started growing when an Ash tree died from the borer and was cut down. The area the Ash tree shaded is now open to sunlight. So, keep an eye out in areas where landscaping and sun exposure may have changed in your yard. Many “new” weeds that may have been shaded out could start appearing!
Wild Grape can be desirable or undesirable depending on where it pops up. It is a native that can provide food for birds and insects. The vines can grow as long as 50 feet and beyond. Wild Grapes often grow up tree trunks and eventually out across the tops of tree canopies, shading out the trees’ own leaves. As trees and vines mature, they can cause girdling or choking of tree trunks as well.
Wild Grape seeds require full sun to germinate. The leaves are broad and slightly heart-shaped with toothed edges and 3 short lobes. The vines have forked tendrils that help it grab onto structures and other plants. These tendrils can coil and wrap around fencing, small branches, stems, and other objects to climb and grip. As the vine matures, the vine becomes dark brown, woody, and flaky. These vines are often used in crafts and wreaths. Fruit is edible though they are not table grapes. Flavor varies from tart to sweet and contain seeds, unlike your grocery produce. The vine may be removed by pruning and pulling. Once the vine is cut, you can pull multiple feet of the vine away from your landscape.
Another native vine in the grape family is Virginia Creeper. This woody deciduous vine has palmately compound leaves with 5 toothed leaflets. Leaves may vary with leaflets ranging from 3 to 7. They may look slightly akin to our Buckeye tree leaf. This vine is also a strong grower like grape, reaching tree canopies and shading out other leaf canopies. The Virginia Creeper has tendrils and adhesive suction cups that fasten them to surfaces. These suction cups are a useful ID feature when distinguishing Virginia Creeper from other vines in the winter. Virginia Creeper has extraordinary fall color showing bright red to maroon. Unlike Wild Grape, the bluish-black berries of Virginia Creeper are toxic to humans but are a beloved favorite of birds and wildlife.
Virginia Creeper is often confused for Poison Ivy, which also has a compound leaf and bright fall colors. Vining Poison Ivy is another woody, native vine found in Ohio woodland landscapes. It is a member of the CASHEW family. Poison Ivy can be difficult to identify. While the adage, “leaves of three, let it be” is a great first tip, its appearance can still vary significantly from plant-to-plant and as it grows. Poison Ivy indeed has compound leaves with 3threeleaflets that arise alternately on the plant stems or vines. A “typical” Poison Ivy leaf can be described as having two mitten-shaped leaflets on the left and right, and a central, terminal leaflet on an extended petiole (leaflet stem). The terminal leaflet may appear to have two thumbs or small lobes. Leaves are often shiny in appearance, especially when younger.
But keep in mind that nature never reads the handbook. Poison Ivy is deceitful, and leaflets can vary in shape significantly with margins being toothed, lobed or smooth. It is often found in moist forested habitat but can show up in pastures, roadsides, and ornamental plantings. It can grow as a ground cover, shrub, or a vine spread by both seed and root. And as mentioned earlier, is often confused with other vines, so use caution around those leaves of three.
Another great way to help identify Poison Ivy as a vine is the distinctly hairy vine itself. Poison Ivy attaches via “aerial rootlets” that grasp onto surfaces as they climb. This gives Poison Ivy its signature hairy vine appearance and can help identify Poison Ivy even in winter without leaves. Poison ivy has impressive fall color from bright orange to deep red and has very distinctive white berries in fall! These are full of urushiol oil and are not for human consumption. But birds love them.
Once the vine is severed from the ground roots, the vine will slowly die back, do not be fooled. All parts of even dead poison ivy contain the rash-inducing urushiol oil, from the root, vine, or dead leaf. Always use protection when handling poison ivy, dead or alive, in landscapes, on trees, or even on logs that might be used for bonfires or fireplaces. Smoke from burning poison ivy vine can result in severe allergic reactions in the mouth, nose and airway. Never burn poison ivy.
There are several herbicides labeled for control of Poison ivy, Wild Grapes and Virginia Creeper. These herbicides commonly contain the active ingredients Glyphosate and/or Triclopyr. The challenge with vines is the risk to hitting the tree roots or trunk and causing damage, as well as other off-target plants. Some products may include instructions or application methods which allow for more targeted vine applications. Read instructions carefully and wear all personal protective gear.