Posts filed under ‘Virginia Creeper’

Brooklyn Botanic Garden – Bonsai Virginia Creeper

Although it is often mistaken for poison ivy, I am a steadfast fan of Virginia Creeper and I’ve seen a lot of it in my day.  I’ve seen it in my yard, on the Appalachian Trail and on travels.  I’ve seen it creep and take over abandoned dams. I’ve seen it turn a gorgeous burgundy in the fall and I get to see Virginia Creeper any time I look at the State Seal or the State Flag of Virginia.

But at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden earlier this month, I got to see something new. Virginia Creeper…as a Bonsai Tree! : )

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens - Bonsai Display - Virginia Creeper with Shadows
Virginia Creeper Bonsai Tree

May 31, 2011 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

links for 2008-06-30

June 30, 2008 at 5:32 pm 3 comments

10 Things in my Yard

I was sick all last weekend and didn’t get to venture far from home. But, thanks to six years of limited yardwork, I have plenty of vegetation to see in my backyard.

Inspired by the No Child Left Inside Coalition video that said “young people could identify 1000 corporate logos but fewer than 10 plants or animals native to their backyards”, I went outside and took pictures of things in my yard. So here are 10 Things in my Yard:

Flowering Dogwood

State tree AND flower of Virginia, State tree of Missouri, State flower of North Carolina

Dogwood I learned at a pretty early age. One day, my siblings and I decided we would build a tree house. There were very few obtainable trees to our short statures. We selected the only one we could reach and nailed no more than three boards into the branches when we were reprimanded by our mother. Apparently, it is against the law to damage the state tree. And that was that. It was going to be a pretty sucky treehouse anyway.

Gray Birch

I don’t have a good story about birch trees. But I will say every time the Direct TV goes out in the summer, this tree is one of my first scapegoats. It has grown so high, I keep waiting for it to block the satellite dish. I’m still waiting.


I was officially introduced to Mayapples last year by Jere Bidwell on our Cornelius Creek hike. Mayapples sport a single bloom which hides under their umbrella-like canopy, so you can’t see the flower from above, you have to look for it!

Silver Maple

This tree never stuck out to me as extraordinary until Sean’s Dad came to visit the house. He is a fan of this tree and actually mentions it pretty regularly.

Sugar Maple

State Tree of New York, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

This is another tree Sean’s Dad taught me. When I first moved into my house I was told that this particular tree wouldn’t last because it was growing into itself. After all the trees I have seen survive under sketchy conditions, growing on rocks, merging back into themselves, eating fences and blazes and even combining with other trees, I decided this one is a big pansy if it can’t figure the matter out on its own. So far it is still going strong.

Tulip Poplar

State tree of Tennesse, Indiana and Kentucky.

This is the favorite tree of my Great Uncle Chuck and my sister. Great Uncle Chuck likes it for practical reasons, “It grows fast and the wood is strong.” Carolyn likes it for a different purpose, “Because it’s easy to identify.”

Since two of my favorite people like this tree, the species will always have a place in my heart.


Sycamores I learned at a very early age as well. My grandmother used to point them out when we went to visit Mount Vernon. I also remember Sycamores from the Bible story of Zacchaeus. He was the short tax collector, who couldn’t see Jesus through the crowd. So he climbed a Sycamore tree to get a better view.

The more I see Sycamore trees, the more I wonder about that story. The branches are so far off the ground. How did short Zacchaeus ever get up there? 🙂


This is a new tree to me. I chose to highlight it in this list of ten because I like the pretty blooms. It seemed flashier than “Dandelion” or “Wild Strawberry”

Poison Ivy

Even though I learned this one at a pretty young age, I managed to have negative encounters with this plant well into adulthood. Most notably, I once got poison ivy on my face trying to rescue a goat from the wood pile.

Virginia Creeper

Virginia Creeper is commonly mistaken for poison ivy. But it is waaaay cooler. It is featured in the state seal of Virginia! My relationship with Virginia Creeper began with Tony Airaghi. Since then I have become very fond of the plant, especially in the fall.

And there you go, 10 Things in my Yard, which is only about 1/3 of an acre. I certainly don’t want to put you on the spot, but I wouldn’t mind seeing 10 things from *your* yards.

Especially since I’m *cough* *cough* still sick and I can’t get to the AT. 🙂

May 6, 2008 at 2:00 pm 13 comments

Playing God

Last weekend I did some yard work.  One of my first tasks was chopping down a small walnut tree that had taken root in some ground cover near the street.  I used a small ax and at first I marveled at the exercise I was getting with each swing.  Suddenly I thought, “This is so weird.  I love trees.”

I do love trees and I especially love trees that are growing where they shouldn’t be– on top of rocks, clinging desperately to a steep incline, still growing after storm damage or a fall.  It is those trees, the peculiar or peculiarly placed that catch my attention on hikes.  But in my yard, this industrious tree who managed to find a spot of free sun was not rewarded.

Later I moved into the backyard where my well covered body ruthlessly yanked down poison ivy vines from trees.  But, I let the beloved Virginia Creeper remain.  At one point, I delicately untangled a poison ivy vine so as to not to disturb the Virginia Creeper on the same host.

Then I got out the weed wacker and without remorse I swung that thing around and devoured everything in its path…. until I got to the wild raspberry bushes.  I remembered how delicious they were last summer and spared them…at least until they bear fruit.

When it was all done, I sat down and drank my Gatorade Rain Berry (my new favorite flavor) and looked upon my creation.   I reflected on the items I condemned, the items I smote and the items I saved.  That afternoon I wasn’t doing work, afterall.  I was playing God.

Well, as luck would have it, I happen to have another Playing God story to share!

My last two years of college I roomed with a dear friend of mine.  This man is intelligent and funny and there are many things about him that I admire… but, like most of us– he has a vice.  He chews his fingernails.  I certainly would notice the gnawing, but it never really bothered me all that much until one idle day when we were heating up a frozen pizza.

Now— we were in college.  So let me lay down some groundwork here.  At that time, our diet consisted solely of frozen pizza, Wendy’s and on special occassions, we would fast all day for a giant gluttonous feast at Texas Steakhouse. 

So this frozen pizza venture was not a new one.  My roommate got the pizza out of the freezer as he had done hundreds of times.  He unwrapped the pizza, as he had done hundreds of times.  He started to rearrange the pepperoni so they were evenly distributed, just like all the other times before.

But this particular day, I thought about his nailbiting.  I could see his fingers firmly rooted in his mouth and him biting away.  And then I could picture his finger tips glistening in the light with fresh saliva.  And then I watched as those same fingers with ragged nubs for nails were picking up the pepperoni I would be eating in 8-12 minutes.

I grew so disgusted and so outraged that I couldn’t hold it in.  I exploded.  I’m not sure of my initial statements, but I know exactly how my ejaculation ended:

“YOU SHOULDN’T PLAY GOD WITH THE PEPPERONI!” I screamed and stormed off.  I left the poor guy perplexed and with a handful of pepperoni.

And that, my friends, was the *only* explanation, he got for my outburst for many, many years–  some kind of heightened sensitivity to blasphemy via frozen foods. 

Just a couple of years ago, I did enlighten him to the true story behind my statement.  I’m not sure, but I think the explanation actually made me look less crazy.  😉

July 21, 2007 at 7:43 pm 2 comments

Early Morning Send Off

This morning I woke up at 5:30 AM in order to drop Mike E off at a trailhead for the Appalachian Trail. Mike’s starting point was VA-652. Going southbound on the trail from VA-652, you cross a bridge and then take on a small hill. That modest hill provides some splendid views of the surrounding area. It’s an excellent return on investment. Remembering that, I walked with Mike up the first hill. I took some pictures and then we parted ways.

Mike on AT
Mike embarking on his journey. For some reason a hot air balloon is in the sky.

I went back to my car where the only thing I had to think about was dodging cow poo. Mike is going to continue southbound for 140 more miles and has more substantial things to worry about– water, food, shelter and the likes. In my defense, I was wearing sandals, so stepping in cow poo would have been remarkably unpleasant.

Mike will be posting regular updates of his journey from his cell phone to Twitter. Zooomabooma probably wouldn’t approve of this continued destruction of society, but if you have no objections to cell phones you can keep track of Mike’s progress on his Twitter site.

I’ll part with some pictures:

Stile on Appalachian Trail
Stile on the Appalachian Trail at VA-652

Cows and Field
View of Cows and Fields from the Appalachian Trail

Tower of Virginia Creeper
A tower of Virginia Creeper doing what it does what it does best.

Blazed Bridge
Blazed Bridge on the Appalachian Trail

As always, more pictures are available on Flickr.

May 26, 2007 at 9:02 am 3 comments

Wildwood Park – A Taste of Home

Today my colleagues and I stopped by Wildwood Park in Marshfield, Wisconsin.  We parked and decided to talk a walk on the Ecology Trail.  Right at the trailhead I spied some familiar friends– Trillium and Virginia Creeper.

Trillium and Virginia Creeper
A trillium bloom and Virginia Creeper

Just like our group hike last week in Southwest Virginia, the trillium almost 1000 miles northwest are in full bloom.  That wasn’t the only familiar faces.  I also saw some Mayapple and Wild Geraniums in bloom as well.

Wild Geranium
Wild geranium blooming

Trillium Bloom
Trillium blooming

Forest Floor Full of Blooms
Forest floor full of blooms

Wildwood Park also contains a free zoo of wild animals- elk, deer, buffalo, wolves, turkeys.  Our favorite was a completely white whitetail deer.

A shedding male elk with beautiful antlers

Whitetail Deer
Whitetail deer


White whitetail deer
A completely white deer

More pictures from Wisconsin and Wildwood Park can be found on my Flickr site.

May 24, 2007 at 12:05 am 6 comments

Fall Ode to Virginia Creeper

When Sean and I first bought our house in 2001, Tony Airaghi showed great vision.  He was one of the first people we brought over to our house.  In fact, we brought him over before we closed on it, before it was official ours.  Despite the whole house being vacant, Tony saw uses Sean and I had not anticipated.

  • When Tony was in the screened in porch, he noted the window that opened back into the kitchen.  He rapped on the glass and said, “Hey– can you hand me another beer?”
  • When Tony went into the downstairs bathroom and saw how close the toilet was to the dryer, he sat down on the toilet, opened the dryer and started folding some invisible laundry.
  • Finally, when we went out into the backyard and looked up at 15 years of unattended growth and a collection of weeds, Tony got enthusiastic and said, “Nice!  You are going to love this shit!!!”  I was skeptical.  To me, it looked like a bunch of poison ivy, but he explained he was talking about a plant called Virginia Creeper and that, “in the fall, it turns a deep red!”

We’ve been in our house for over five years now.  I haven’t once passed a beer to Sean through the kitchen window (no need- the screened in porch sports its own fridge).  I’ve also never folded laundry while using the toilet (though every now and then I will retrieve a few choice items from the dryer).  But Tony was right about one thing– I sure do love that Virginia Creeper.

And this year it seems more beautiful than ever!  All the Virginia Creeper has turned a deep maroon.  Meanwhile most of the trees remain a solid green.  As a result, when you are driving through the area, you pass by trees with green leaves and bushy red trunks.  It’s very obvious where the Virginia Creeper is.  I’ve been finding the 460 bypass between Blacksburg and Christiansburg particularly pretty.

There are those who are not fond of Virginia Creeper, who consider it a pest.  Last summer, when I visited my Great Uncle Chuck’s farm in Pennsylvania, we walked by some Virginia Creeper.  In a very vague way, it was reminiscent of the scene in Amistad where Cinque, thousands of miles from home, sees a familiar plant (an African Violet) in John Quincy Adams’  greenhouse.  I was only 400 miles from home, but still smiled when I saw the plant that bears the name of my home state.  

“What do you call that plant?” I asked my Great Uncle proudly.

“A WEED!” He snapped. 

“Oh,” I replied meekly, “We call it Virginia Creeper.”

He may have sensed my disappointment as he quickly tacked on, “Well, we call it that too.”  But by that time, his opinion was clear.

My Great Uncle is not alone.  There are those who find Virginia Creeper to be a pest, those who have allergic reactions to it like poison ivy and those who would consider it to be an invasive species.   Perhaps I should as well.  But, honestly, I’m too smitten with the leaves!

Luckily, I’m not alone either!   There is evidence that people have been enchanted by Virginia Creeper for centuries.  In 1776 a committee of four Virginians (George Mason, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, and Robert Carter Nicholas) designed our state seal (which also appears on our state flag).  There is a colorful border around the seal.  That border is Virginia Creeper and fittingly enough– its leaves are red. 

It’s Virginia Creeper in the fall, that is depicted on our state seal! 

That feels about right to me.  🙂

October 1, 2006 at 10:23 am 8 comments

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