The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Virginia Creeper
VIRGINIA CREEPER, a woody climbing vine of the grape family, peculiar to North America, and found from Canada to Texas. It was placed in the genera vitis and cissus by the earlier authors, but as it differs from these in having no disk or glands to the flower, Michaux established for it a separate genus, ampelopsis; both this and cissus are reduced to vitis (the vine) by Bentham and Hooker, though in American botanical works Michaux's name ampelopsis quinquefolia is retained for the plant, which is often called A. hederacea by European authors.
The plant climbs extensively, often as high as 50 ft. or more, by means of tendrils, and sometimes by rootlets also; the leaves, upon long petioles, are palmately divided into five oblong-lanceolate, cut-toothed leaflets, of a dark shining green; the flowers, in cymes opposite the leaves, are small, with a very short, obscurely five-toothed calyx, and five thick, fleshy petals, which fall soon after opening; stamens five; the ovary, surmounted by the stigma, two-celled, and ripening into a dark blue, globular, two- to four-seeded berry; at the same time the fruit stalks become a rich red color.
The tendrils, borne at the nodes opposite the leaves, are branched as in the grape, though much shorter, and do not like those catch around a support by means of their hooked tips; the tendrils of this turn from the light toward the tree or wall against which the vine grows, where their tips, when they come in contact with the support, expand, and form a disk which adheres to the surface with great tenacity; those tendrils or branches which do not become attached soon wither, while the others, which spread themselves as far apart as possible, when they have taken firm hold by their disks contract into coils and become strong and wiry, so that the plant is held to its support by numerous elastic springs. As an ornamental climber this is one of the most valued, especially as its leaves in autumn assume the richest shades of scarlet, crimson, and purple. The vine is also often called American ivy and American woodbine, names suggested by a similarity of habit. The name American ivy has caused many to confound it with the poison ivy (rhus toxicodendron), which also climbs walls and high trees, and the two are often found growing together; the poison ivy (see Sumach) is a very dangerous plant, while this is perfectly harmless; they are easily distinguished by their three-parted and five-parted leaves, and it may be well to remember that no native vine with a five-parted leaf is poisonous. — For a long time this was the only species of ampelopsis in cultivation, but within a few years one has been introduced from Japan which is becoming very popular. It is called in the catalogues A. Vietchii, but it was many years ago described by Siebold and Zuccarini as A. tricupidata, which is the prior and correct name. This Japan creeper has three-lobed (not divided) leaves, which are much smaller than in the other, and cover a wall with the densest curtain of foliage; the leaves of this also turn to brilliant colors in autumn; it has proved quite hardy pear Boston.