From:Austin, TX Region: Southwest Topic: Vines Title: Differentiating between Cow-itch vine and Balsam-gourd vine Answered by: Joe Marcus and Nan Hampton
How can I tell the difference between Cow-itch vine and Balsam-gourd vine?
Cow-itch vine (Cissus trifoliata), a member of the Family Vitaceae (Grape Family) and Balsam-gourd vine (Ibervillea lindheimeri), a member of the Family Cucurbitaceae (Cucumber Family) are easily confused since they have foliage that looks very similar. Here are some tips on telling them apart.
1. Cow-itch leaves are typically, but not always, fleshier than Balsam-gourd leaves.
2. The stem of Cow-itch vine is also usually fleshy, soft and brownish in color; while a Balsam-gourd vine stem is normally thinner, stringier, and green. This may be the easiest recognition feature to use if the plants are not in flower or fruit.
3. The crushed foliage and stems of Cow-itch exudes a foul, burnt rubber odor, while Balsam-gourd does not. However, since handling Cow-itch vine causes contact dermatitis on some people, caution should be exercised if you're not sure about your own sensitivity to it.
4. The tendrils on Cow-itch emerge from the stem opposite the leaf axil, while on Balsam-gourd the tendrils emerge in or next to the leaf axil. Distinguishing the species by this feature is not always certain because of variability within individuals. The tendrils have another characteristic that is often useful but not always sure. The tendrils of Cow-itch tend to have more of a meandering appearance than those on Balsam-gourd. Balsam-gourd tendrils usually exhibit a more regular spiral, resembling the wire spring of an ink pen.
5. Cow-itch flowers are small, greenish and occur in large clusters. Balsam-gourd flowers are larger and showier, yellow to greenish-yellow and typically have one to few flowers per inflorescence.
6. The fruits of Cow-itch are small, black berries occurring in large clusters; while Balsam-gourd fruits are large, red and showy when ripe and typically occur singly at any leaf axil.
7. Finally, if you have access to a magnifying glass, you can see small pores on the surface of the underside of Balsam-gourd leaves. There are no pores on the underside of the leaves of Cow-itch.
More Vines Questions
Plant identification of vine in Tennessee January 06, 2012 - I have this vine that grows in my backyard and on the vine there are green balls about half the size of a hedge apple and inside balls are a bunch of seeds. The deer love to eat these. Do you know wha... view the full question and answer
Regenerating old cross-vines in Richardson, TX June 26, 2008 - I have been asked to landscape a memorial garden at church. The garden is small and has a 10x 15-foot brick wall around the back in a c-shape in full sun. Planted on the wall are several very overgro... view the full question and answer
Native Vines for Pacific Northwest June 30, 2010 - Hello,
I recently built a shed/pen for my large dog. I have a trellis horizontal above the fence to hide the shed from street. I live in Pacific NW. Do you have any suggestions on a nontoxic evergr... view the full question and answer
Vine for pergola in Kilgore, Texas January 21, 2009 - Have recently constructed a 10'X 20' free standing pergola with a 14' X 24' treated wood deck surround. The support posts are inset 14" from the outside edge. I want to grow greenery on the per... view the full question and answer
Conditions for wisteria bloom on Ontario, Canada November 05, 2005 - I live in Ontario Canada, and about 4 years ago I bought a shrub which was called wisteria. I loved this bush when I visited a cousin out in British Columbia. The problem is it has no trouble growing ... view the full question and answer