Posts Tagged ‘virginia creeper’


Virginia Creeper

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With autumn, the lush greens of summer give way to a new palette of golds and oranges and yellows, and here and there, a touch of scarlet. The brilliant reds are reserved for just a few trees and vines, burning accents that glow brightly against the hedgerows and forests. Some of the crimson highlights are provided by maple trees.


Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is another notable red. Some vines turn a deep wine or burgundy, but others achieve a blazing fire engine red.


This prolific native vine can be seen clambering up telephone poles and trees and gambolling along fence lines. Its blue-black berries are an important winter food source for birds.


Among the most conspicuous splashes of red are provided by stands of Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina), a small native tree or shrub that spreads aggressively by rhizomes to form large clonal colonies.


The clusters of fuzzy bright red berries persist well into the winter, when they are likewise an important food source for wildlife.


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Between the bank of the little river and the edge of the laneway is a hedgerow of trees and bushes. The trees, mostly Manitoba maple (Acer negundo) and ash (Fraxinus spp), provide the basic architecture of the row, with many leaning out gracefully over the river. A closer look reveals that there is a veritable cornucopia of fruits and berries available to the wild folk, as many less conspicuous species offer up their fall bounty. Here is an inventory of the berries and fruit I was able to spot in the hedgerow.

At this time of year, the many clusters of ash seeds offer the birds an easy meal. One source I came across notes that European folklore claims that by consuming ash keys one is made temporarily proof from the undead. This little chickadee should be safe.


Among the smaller trees represented in the row are a few hawthorns (Crataegus spp). On our previous property, hawthorn trees were quite common and we had several large, old trees. The thorns on hawthorns are serious. The kids used to call hawthorns “nail trees”. They produce a good crop of fruit, apple-like berries called haws. The haws often remain on the tree into winter and provide a food supply for wildlife.


Interspersed among the larger trees are a few small European Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica). As the name suggests, these are not native to Ontario and are considered an invasive species. I haven’t noticed very many around here though. Their berries should not be eaten as they are a cathartic. However, the birds enjoy them, and consequently act as dispersers, helping the buckthorn invade new territory.


A second non-native species of buckthorn, Glossy Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) is also present in the hedgerow.


Creeping over and around the trees and shrubs are several species of vines. Easily recognizable are wild grapes, perhaps Riverbank grapes (Vitis riparia).


Another common vine is Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). The berry clusters are very attractive, with the blue-purple berries held at the end of bright red stems. Showing that one man’s native is another man’s invasive, Virginia Creeper is considered a nuisance in Britain, where it was introduced and is now crowding out their native species in hedgerows.


Fruits fuel the migration journeys of many birds, and in turn, the birds spread seeds for plants. Most bird-dispersed fruits are bright red, the better to attract the attention of birds. Virginia creeper has dark fruit, but attracts birds with the bright red stalks that hold the fruit. The leaves of this vine also turn red long before the leaves of the tree that is supporting the vine, thus making the vine stand out so that birds can more readily find its fruit.


In one spot, I came across a a vine that was new to me. I believe it is a Common Hop (Humulus lupulus).

Finally, a smattering of wild roses (Rosa spp.) were dotted with rose hips.


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At the beginning of the week, we had some much-needed rain. Actually, we had a LOT of rain, with a heavy downpour on Wednesday. Consequently, I welcomed the sunny weather on Thursday, an absolutely beautiful fall day, and I couldn’t resist idling away part of the afternoon with a tour around the property. Here are some of the sights I saw.


Behind the house, the maple leaves are beginning to turning bright colours, although there is still a lot of green. Farther down the drive, the touch of red is provided by a Virginia Creeper vine that has entwined itself high in a tree.


I walked down the lane to the bridge over the little river. Today the flow was much more impressive than it was just a few days ago. Agricultural land along the river has drainage and trenching systems that mean rainwater is diverted into the river rapidly following a storm. As a result, the river flow swells quickly in response to wet weather. Presumably, this also contributes to the muddy appearance of the water.


Down by the water’s edge, there were a number of blue darners zipping about. Those darn darners! They never hold still to get their picture taken. I was lucky even to catch this guy in the photo frame. It is likely a Mosaic Darner, a member of the genus Aeshna, possibly a Canada Darner (Aeshna canadensis). That would be appropriate.


Along the bank of the river, I noticed these mullein (Verbascum thapsus) rosettes. The fuzzy, felt leaves are the first-year growth of the biennial plant. Next year, they’ll put up a flower spike.


Across from the river and beside our property is a field planted in soybeans. They’ll be ready to harvest soon. Their summer green is gone and the field is a golden brown. Look at those clouds! One of the nice things about a flat, open landscape are the frequent displays of breathtaking skies. It’s like living in a seventeenth-century Dutch landscape painting. Only without the windmills.


This majestic Crimson King maple is beautiful in every season.


Hi Mousie! Hi Czarina! Hi Louis!


The field behind the barn is beautiful now as the long grass fades to a soft sandy brown and the seed heads catch the sunlight.


I didn’t notice the spider until I downloaded the photographs and spotted it, perhaps an Argiope species.


Down by the pond, it is much quieter than it was in the spring and summer. After I had stood by the water for a few minutes, however, I noticed a number of reddish dragonflies. One landed on my pants-leg, facing up towards me, and I noticed it had a white face. Then I saw that along the water there were a few dozen red dragonflies, all in pairs. They were dipping down to the water surface, rising up a foot or so, and then dipping down again. It appeared to be females laying eggs in the water with the males in tandem, contact guarding their mate. I was quite sure the dragonflies were White-faced Meadowhawks (Sympetrum obtrusum) until I got back to the house and checked my guide. Hmm. Problem. Both the males and females appeared red, while the females of meadowhawks are usually a dull olive-brown. It’s a mystery.


As I returned to the house I noticed a butterfly land on the arm of a lawn chair. There was a fair breeze, and it struggled mightily to get its sail-like wings under control.



Finally, it managed to settle on the chair arm with its wings flat and out of the wind. A Viceroy (Limenitis archippus).
Not without regret, I returned to the house to tackle more prosaic tasks.

Jan van Goyen: View of Rhenen, 1646

Jan van Goyen: View of Rhenen, 1646

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