Boston Ivy or Japanese Creeper
(Vitaceae - Grape Family)
- large climbing semi-woody vine
- maturing at least to the height and width of the structure upon which it climbs, sometimes over 100'
- climbing vine growth habit
- rapid growth rate (3' to 10' per year once established)
- full sun to full shade
- prefers full sun to partial sun in moist, well-drained soils, but is tolerant of a wide range of urban stresses, including heat, drought, high light reflection, poor soils, thin soils, compacted soils, restricted root zones, soils of variable pH, and heavy pruning
- propagated by seeds or rooted stem cuttings
- Grape Family, with virtually no disease or pest problems of significance
- moderate availability, usually as a young vine staked or trellised in containers
- emerging bronzed, changing to a medium then dark green, with very glossy upper surfaces, to 6" wide
- each leaf has three prominent lobes, or sometimes is so deeply sinuate that it forms three leaflets at the top of the petiole
- coarsely serrated (almost dentate), having acuminate apices on the lobes, with a 4" long petiole, and with the leaf blades parallel to the structure upon which the vine is climbing
- brilliant glossy yellow, orange, scarlet, crimson, and/or wine fall color begins in September and abscises in October, sometimes with the petioles remaining attached for a week or two to the stems after the leaflets have abscised
- small and greenish, usually hidden by the foliage, in June and July and ornamentally insignificant
- clusters of very small bluish-black grape-like fruits, hidden by the foliage until Autumn leaf abscission, and ornamentally insignificant
- maturing in September and October and quickly eaten by the birds, which aids in its dispersal as an occasional weedy vine
- young stems are thin at their termini, with tendrils containing holdfasts for anchoring the vine to its stone, brick, wood, or bark attachment as it climbs
- second-year stems are heavily lenticeled and bumpy, having sunken (concave) leaf scars from the previous season's foliage attachment sites
- twisting and exfoliating in very thin strips, and much-branched at its base
- ID Summary
- vine that climbs by holdfasts on or over many types of structures (with walls being the most common)
- three-lobed or trifoliate glossy green Summer foliage covers the vigorously climbing stems, turning warm shades of spectacular fall color in Autumn
- miniature grape-like fruits are hidden by the foliage but are readily eaten by the birds
- tendrils (that attach the stems via suction-cup holdfasts to the supportive structure) are shorter, and stems are thinner, than those of Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia Creeper)
- structural cover for climbing building walls, garden arbors, or large trellises, but can also ramble over short walls, along the ground, or climb trees
- medium-bold texture in foliage and fine texture when bare
- thick density in foliage and when bare
- rapid and aggressive growth rate (this can be a liability for mature vines)
- dense foliage that is glossy dark green in Summer, with spectacular fall color in shades of yellow and red
- stems have numerous holdfasts that securely anchor it to its supportive structure, unlike some vines that climb by twining
- aggressive spread will rapidly cover windows, doors, wire mesh screens, etc. in a single season if these structures are in reach, and the vine may therefore need annual or bi-annual pruning away from these structures
- zones 5 to 8
- native to Japan and Central China
- large and vigorous vines with a solid anchoring system, and especially utilized for the cover of stone or brick buildings in environmental conditions ranging from full sun to full shade (Hedera helix, Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
- climbing vines with excellent fall color (Parthenocissus quinquefolia, Rhus radicans [the latter being Poison Ivy, of course])
- several cultivars have been selected based upon foliage size, shape, and specific Autumn color, but the species form is most commonly available
- Parthenocissus translates as from the Greek as "virgin ivy", referring to Virginia Creeper, the other prominent species in the genus.
- tricuspidata translates as "three-pointed" in reference to the leaves of Boston Ivy.
- Boston Ivy is a lush vine, clinging tightly to its supportive structure, with glossy dark green Summer foliage and rich yellow, red, or burgandy Autumn foliage.
- Parthenocissus tricuspidata is known as a showy climbing vine for walls (such as Wrigley Field in Chicago) or the walls of large buildings, having glossy Summer tri-lobed foliage and a spectacular yellow to scarlet fall color.
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