Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Creeping from Virginia to Texas, or at least from east Austin to west Austin

with 22 comments

Virginia Creeper Turning Red on Rocks 2248

I’ve lived most of my 37 years in Austin in the north-central or northeastern part of the city, but in May of 2004 we moved to Great Hills in the northwestern part of town. When fall came I couldn’t help noticing that a limestone slope by the side of Morado Circle was host to Parthenocissus quinquefolia, called Virginia creeper or (in part to distinguish it from poison ivy) five-leaf creeper. The reason I couldn’t help noticing that vine is that its compound leaves are one of the reliable sources of fall color here. Now it’s nine years later, and the same plant is on the same rocks, still putting on its autumnal show, as you see from November 18th of this year.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 24, 2013 at 6:01 AM

22 Responses

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  1. Many of our tall trees here have that vine growing up them. Some have vines 1.5″ across. They reliably give a colorful show each fall.

    Jim in IA

    December 24, 2013 at 6:51 AM

    • I don’t think I’ve never seen a Virginia creeper vine 1.5″ thick, so I’ll have to keep my eyes open to find out whether I haven’t been paying attention or whether there aren’t any that thick in my area.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 24, 2013 at 7:43 AM

  2. Very beautiful. The background makes it stand out.


    December 24, 2013 at 6:57 AM

    • Yes, it does. For most of the year Virginia creeper goes largely unnoticed, but for a short time late in the year we can see its red leaves standing out against a tree trunk, green foliage, or the earth.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 24, 2013 at 7:49 AM

  3. It creeps here in Wyoming, too. Many people grow it on their fences for reliable fall color.


    December 24, 2013 at 9:03 AM

    • Interesting that you should report that, because when I looked at the USDA map at


      I didn’t find Virginia creeper shown for Wyoming. Those species range maps aren’t always accurate, but it’s also possible that Virginia creeper didn’t grow of its own accord in Wyoming but now does because people planted it there. In the wide-open spaces of Wyoming, I can see where fences would be a natural place for this vine to take hold. Happy color to you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 24, 2013 at 9:24 AM

  4. It’s one of my favorite bits of late autumn foliage, and so pretty against the rock.

    Looking at the scientific name, I couldn’t help wondering if today’s posting wasn’t meant to contain a sly little nod to tomorrow’s holiday. That “partheno…” seemed familiar, and when I looked it up, I understood why. Intentional or not, it made me smile. Happy etymologies to us all!


    December 24, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    • That’s inspired: Tiny Tim as etymologist. Actually the genus made me think about the temple that the ancient Greeks named the Parthenon for its devotion to the virgin goddess Athena. Any reference in today’s post to a later religious tradition is at best subconscious, but tomorrow’s photo will be consciously symbolic.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 24, 2013 at 10:36 AM

  5. I used to have some of this covering a rather boring brown fence back in the days I had a garden – always stunning during the autumn months.
    Have a good Christmas Steve and I look forward to seeing what beauties you discover during 2014 🙂
    Jude xx


    December 24, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    • I had no idea that people grew this American vine in the UK (if that’s where you were when you cultivated it), but I can see where it would do wonders for a boring brown fence in autumn.

      Happy Christmas to you, and happy travels. (Your mention of 2014 led me to realize that that number factors into 2 * 19 * 53, and that in turn made me think of the year 1953. I doubt that I took a single photograph back then, but I expect to take plenty in 2014.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 24, 2013 at 11:37 AM

      • Yes it was in the UK. South Yorkshire so ‘oop north’
        and 1953 was a very good year – I was born then 🙂


        December 24, 2013 at 12:02 PM

        • Then I expect you didn’t take any photographs in 1953, either, unless you were an infant prodigy.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 24, 2013 at 12:32 PM

  6. I want this one framed and on my wall! Lovely!


    December 24, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    • Thanks, Lynda. So far I’ve managed to have it on my neighborhood “wall” for a few days each year, though never in a frame.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 24, 2013 at 1:43 PM

  7. Lovely image. Virginia creeper is all over the place in my yard and area, I’ve always admired it in fall.
    I just looked at your prints page at Fine Art America – excellent images there.


    December 24, 2013 at 8:26 PM

    • Thanks on both counts, this image and those at Fine Art America. That’s a new venture, at friends’ urging, and we’ll see how it goes.

      As for Virginia creeper, it would be hard for people not to admire it, and for nature photographers not to photograph it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 24, 2013 at 10:34 PM

  8. Interestingly, the only creeper that I’ve seen change colour here is a fake grape vine, on my late mother’s fence when she lived in a house; it looked beautiful of course, just like this one.
    Merry Christmas, steve! 😛


    December 25, 2013 at 12:50 AM

    • Merry Christmas to you as your long summer day winds down on the other side of the earth. Till now I don’t think I’ve ever thought about the consequences of the fact that although the seasons are reversed, holidays aren’t.

      What do you mean by a fake grape vine?

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 25, 2013 at 6:33 AM

  9. A friend recently told me that Virginia creeper is our local antidote to poison ivy, like jewel weed up north. This was interesting, because Lou’s deceased wife was a PhD botanist, and told him that the antidote to any plant grows within 15′ of it. I recently got to try it out. I noticed an unusual growth on some plant leaves and after rubbing it repeatedly, I noticed that it was poison ivy. I was miles from home, so grabbed a handful of creeper and rubbed it until the juices came out. I did nothing else, not even wash my hands when I got home, and there was no sign of skin irritation.


    July 26, 2015 at 9:33 AM

    • That’s quite an anecdote about an antidote. Had you ever had a rash from poison ivy before (or since)? If not, the possibility remains that you’re one of those people who are immune to the effects of poison ivy. On the other hand, if you know you’re susceptible, then your story is great evidence for the effectiveness of Virginia creeper.

      I’ve seen what I assume is the same growth on poison ivy leaves here recently. Was yours like this:


      Steve Schwartzman

      July 26, 2015 at 11:51 AM

      • Yes, I’ve had the rash mildly many times and severely a couple of times… No, the growth I was looking at was brilliant red and glossy. Unfortunately, I don’t carry a camera on my walks, and the mowers have eliminated it. YOU could have gotten a great photo.


        July 26, 2015 at 8:26 PM

        • I don’t recall ever seeing a brilliant red and glossy growth on poison ivy, but I have seen the type of growth shown in the link I gave.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 26, 2015 at 10:48 PM

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