Parthenocissus thomsonii

UBC Botanical Garden’s Curator of Collections, Douglas Justice, wrote the foundation of today’s entry. I’ve made a few edits to adapt his text for Botany Photo of the Day:

Parthenocissus comes from parthenos meaning “virgin” and kissos (“ivy”). It refers to the English common name of the eastern American Virginia creeper or Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia was named for Queen Elizabeth I, the “Virgin Queen”). Parthenocissus is a genus of about 10 species of climbing plants that climb by means of leaf tendrils that either twine or have adhesive pads (Daniel: for more on the adhesive pads, see the previous entry on Parthenocissus tricuspidata ‘Robusta’).

The main attraction of Parthenocissus thomsonii is its five-fingered leaves, which are bronzy-purple in spring turning glossy green at maturity and deep red in the fall. The fruits are black. This Asian climber was collected in Assam (India) in 1900 by E. H. Wilson and later introduced by him from China. It is similar to the more common Parthenocissus henryana, but differs in its leaves, which lack central silver markings, and in having tendrils that only branch in pairs (Parthenocissus henryana along with most other Parthenocissus species have multi-branched tendrils). Flora of China places Parthenocissus thomsonii in a different genus (Yua) on account of this difference in tendril characteristics.

Daniel: These are photographs from the David C. Lam Asian Garden. You’ll note in the second image that the Parthenocissus is smothering the western hemlock it is using for support, so the vine will likely be cut down to the ground this winter as part of the Garden’s aggressive vine management policy.

Parthenocissus thomsonii
Parthenocissus thomsonii

8 responses to “Parthenocissus thomsonii”

  1. Janeal Thompson

    Thanks again for all of your hard work on this website–the first photo is quite beautiful and the comments by Douglas Justice are interesting.
    The second photo reminds me of my neighbor’s trees which are covered with Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) which grows quite well in southeastern Colorado,even during our continuous, severe drought. Although her creeper hosts many birds in the fall utilizing the berries–her beautiful junipers, pines and bushes are nearly dead from the smothering vine.
    Janeal Thompson
    Lamar, CO

  2. Michael Aman

    Here in Upstate New York I often forget about the climbers during the spring and summer even though they decorate tree trunks everywhere. But in September the Virginia creepers, grapes, and poison ivy turn the trunks maroon, yellow, and orange to contrast with the canopies which are still green.

  3. dori

    Do these vines take down buildings? What about the Empress Hotel in Victoria? It’s covered totally.
    Yes it is gorgeous and I have a big stand of it on my garage and stairs, but I do cut it a lot.

  4. Eric Simpson

    Since it’s in the grape family, is the fruit edible?

  5. Sheryl

    @ Eric – the fruits are not edible for humans, but birds absolutely adore them!

  6. Edith

    Sometimes, before I see the 5 leaves, I have some that has only 3 leaves and looks remarkably like Poison Ivy. Does it cause rash as well?

  7. Daniel Mosquin

    Edith, does it look something like the ones on this site: Parthenocissus quinquefolia? If what you are observing is indeed a Parthenocissus, you shouldn’t have to worry about inducing a rash.

  8. Edith

    It was in NY. I am sure it was Virginia Creeper, but I have heard stories of it inducing a rash as well?

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