|(click to see a larger image of any of the photos)|
What makes it more complicated to those that don't know how to winter ID poison ivy is that we have three very common vines that grow in our area and may grow all together as the photo to the right indicates. The three vines are: poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), and grape (Vitis spp.).
|Poison Ivy climbing on a tree trunk|
In winter it is the large bush-like and vine forms that we see most while out on the trails and the dried - yet still very irritating to the skin - vines on firewood. Yes, you can get the poison ivy rash from the vines on firewood too. Vines on firewood will look much like the picture to the right. Older vines will be thicker, woodier looking with a lot more of the hair-like tendrils along the length of the vine - more like the first picture above.
See the detail below for a close up of the hair-like tendrils. The detail also shows a shoot where leaves will sprout from come the spring. Slender buds can be seen on the tips of the vines. The picture farther below shows a vine with buds growing along an old fence.
Wikipedia has a list of identification aids for this tricky plant. You can find it here.
There is also a whole site on poison ivy here with more info and images which you can find here.
|Poison ivy vines and berries. Notice bud at end of vine.|
Got a photo of a plant you are questioning the ID of? Try GardenWeb's Name That Plant forum for identification help.
|Virginia creeper's small looping tendrils and knobbed joints|
It too has its beauty - attractive leaves with 5 leaflets, scarlet fall color, and blue-black berries. This is also a "robust" and vital vine that is not easily removed from the garden. And a word of warning - never rototill the roots of this plant. Each piece will sprout a new plant. Yes, personal experience talking here!
|The thin-barked and green fleshed vine|
Virginia creeper vines have a very thin bark with green flesh right under the surface. The vines have knobs or "knuckles" where the leaves would sprout come spring.
|The tendrils grasping bamboo|
The tendrils on the virginia creeper are never hairy. The tendrils are always small tight loops which they use to grasp fences, trees, or as in the pictures here, bamboo. All the vines featured here are very effective climbers.
Virginia creeper also has berries in the fall, but I have never seen them hold these berries into the winter season. The fruits are produced in clusters that have more of an umbrella-like arrangement than the standard downward hanging clusters that grapes prefer.
Like with many plants, google image searches provide many wonder photos to compare against and learn from. Find one such google search here. Add other qualifiers to see more.
For information as well as images, please see here or here.
|The large looping tendrils of the grape|
Last but definitely not least, is the wild grape. The grape is the only one of the three vines featured here that is not poisonous - in fact, the fruit is edible and foragers can collect them for preserves and food. The leaves and young shoots are edible as well. Stuffed grape leaves - who doesn't love those!
The wild grape in our Northeastern forests can grow into such large woody vines that not only Tarzan but Tantor his elephant could successfully swing on them. The vines are also so plentiful in Eastern North America that the Vikings who discovered America, named the continent "Vinland" - "vine land." (The Vikings were first Europeans to discover America - sorry, Christopher Columbus!)
|The bark and filaments in a grape vine|
|Last season's grapes|
The grape often holds its last season's fruit clusters and maybe dried out bits of fruit on its vines. Albeit smaller, the wild grape fruit clusters look just like the cultivated grape clusters bought in a grocery store. They will look like a grape cluster to you.
Important - Before eating any wild grapes, be sure to know how to ID them from the poisonous look-a-like Canada Moonseed (Menispermum canadense). Always be smart and be safe.
You have to love the images available via google - they are a boon to plant lovers and enthusiasts every where. Check out some wild grape images here and here. Use other qualifiers to the search for other image results.
Get more info and pictures of the wild grape from here and here.