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Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata)

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Summary

A deciduous woody vine native to east Asia, introduced in North America. Established in numerous scattered locations, mostly around urban areas. It is a close relative of the native Virginia creeper. It is named for its cultivation in Boston, an area that was historically too cold to grow English Ivy. It is historically the ivy of the "Ivy League".

USDA Plants Profile for Parthenocissus tricuspidata

Description & Identification

A deciduous, woody vine with alternate leaves, climbing by tendrils with adhesive discs. Leaves variable: sometimes simple, three-lobed, sometimes compound, with three leaflets, occasionally two fused to produce an asymmetrical two-leaflet leaf. Leaf margins serrated, but serration on trifoliate leaves reduced between leaflets. Immature leaves on new growth often rounded, with lobes poorly-defined.

Foliage often shiny, fall color usually red, sometimes with some orange to dark purple. Although different leaves on a single vine typically change color at the same time, collections of multiple vines can display a wide range of colors. Growth to 50ft (15m.) in height.

Flowers 5-merous, greenish white, and relatively inconspicuous. Fruit a bluish-black berry, born in grape-like clusters, on stems that are reddish at the fruit's maturity.

Overall characteristics visibly similar to other Parthenocissus species.

Similar Plants

Eastern Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
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Habitat

In North America, mostly found around human areas where it has escaped cultivation, especially in urban areas. Found in gardens, around abandoned or poorly-maintained buildings, and along roadsides and railroads, especially near bridges, overpasses, and concrete barriers where it is able to root in fertile soil and climb sunny, exposed walls.

Life Cycle

Established seedlings sprawl across the ground and climb any suitable surface; able to effectively climb tree bark as well as wood, stone, brick, and concrete surfaces. Tolerant of light shade, but requires greater sunlight to flower and fruit. Usually takes a few years to reach maturity. Fruits are dispersed by birds.

Uses

Historically, widely cultivated as a landscaping plant, although there is little reason to plant this instead of the native Parthenocissus species. Nowadays, rarely planted.

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