Deceptive Vines With Plump Berries

At long last!  Finally, I can figure out what in the world these vines are!  

The drums roll, the trumpets blare.  I gaze at the beautiful blue berries, wondering if there's any chance that these are edible.  I dream of pies, of jams, and of berries popped directly into my mouth.

Armed with photos, I race to my computer.  I now have plenty of pictures to make my discovery with.  Using the leaves, the berries, and even the vines themselves, I can narrow my search.

I know that I was wrong about these being grapes.  I knew it from the moment that the leaf buds produced whorls of five slender leaves with jagged edges.

But what were they?

Well, it actually took me quite a while to discover the answer to that.  I started by trying to identify the berries.

deceptive blue berries

The blue berries were absolutely gorgeous.  They were plump, firm, and round.  The fact that the color of the area by which the fruit attached to the vine was red felt like a great way to help determine what it was.

I was wrong, though.  See, it may have helped quite a bit, but I have no idea what that red part is called.  To me, it's just 'that red part'.

Not exactly scientific terminology.

I came up dry.  Even searching through images by keyword gave me nothing.

I decided to put that photo away, and try to identify the vines by leaf.  This is how I've been able to match several other plants in the past, after all.  I know a lot more about leaves than I do about berries.

five leaves on each leaflet

The leaflets produce  whorls of five leaves with toothed edges.  The entire mature leaflet expands to between five and six inches, depending on which vine I look at.

I was on the hunt.  Unfortunately, everything I was brought to came to a dead end... again.  I was beginning to want to pull my hair out in frustration.

Fortunately, in my frustration I began to repetitively cycle through all of my images.  

Not because I thought I may accomplish anything by that, of course...  Rather, it was because letting the images cycle quickly in front of my eyes was producing a rather welcome catharsis.  You know, like clicking the tv remote again and again, until just about everyone in the house is ready to strangle you.

While cycling through everything, I suddenly stopped.  I stared at one photo that simply showed the vine.  The vine that originally had me thinking that I might have grapes growing in the yard.

clearly vitaceae

If the vine's structure looked so much like grape that someone who grew grapes could get confused, maybe there was a reason for that.  I mean, besides the wishful thinking aspect.

While genus and species were useless to me, and wouldn't give me any valuable information, I may still be able to use taxonomy to help me.  I thought back to my favorite mnemonic device from high school:


Skittles.  Yeah, he came over for great skittles.  Hey!  I'm a family friendly blog, remember?

Since I didn't want to go through genus and species, which would lead me to nothing of use here, I backed up one more, to F.


The grape family is vitaceae.  

All plants within this family are woody plants, most of them including vines and tendrils.  Score!  I threw this into a general search using other factors I had already discovered, and finally was able to make a match.

What I have is Virginia Creeper vines (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) - something a desert rat like me wouldn't have any experience with.

Sadly, I can't eat the berries.  They're poisonous.  I'll also need to be on the lookout for poison ivy, since the two plants tend to grow together quite often.

The good news?  Come fall, the leaves will turn a gorgeous red color.  Not only that, but the huge presence of cardinals and woodpeckers in my yard may actually have something to do with the presence this vine, since they use it as a food source.

Looks like I managed to help improve the backyard habitat I've been trying for without even knowing it.  Simply by leaving these vines alone.  Bonus!


  1. Thank you so much for your blog. I tried looking for the berries and the vine and the leaves. Thanks to you, it worked for me.

    1. You're so welcome, Paula! I'm glad I could help. It totally threw me for a loop for the longest time.


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