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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - October 27, 2009

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Is Parthenocissus heptaphylla poisonous?
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Hi, I have a simple question for you, but I can't seem to find the answer to it. Is Parthenocissus heptaphylla toxic the way the VA creeper is? From what I've read, they're very similar in many ways, but I'd prefer something non-toxic, since I have small kiddos around. I'm looking for a climbing vine-type plant for our pergola. I'm in San Antonio.

ANSWER:

We could find no specific information for the possible toxicity of Parthenocissus heptaphylla (sevenleaf creeper).  However, we would recommend that you assume that it is poisonous since it is very closely related to Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper).  Because Sevenleaf creeper has a much smaller native range and is a much less well known species, there is simply not as much literature about it.  It's probable toxicity aside, Sevenleaf creeper makes a very fine pergola plant.  Another otherwise fine pergola plant is Wisteria frutescens (American wisteria).  Unfortunately, it and all members of its genus bear poisonous fruit.  Another nice pergola plant, Berchemia scandens (Alabama supplejack) also produces poisonous berries as does Bignonia capreolata (crossvine).  Are you noticing a pattern?  Many vines, for some reason, are poisonous.

Your best bet for a woody vine might be one of the native grapes that grow in your area.  While the fruit of Vitis mustangensis (mustang grape) is edible, you should not eat very many of them due to their high acid content which can burn the throat.  Other species, like Vitis monticola (sweet mountain grape) and Vitis cinerea var. helleri (Heller's grape) produce edible fruit on attractive vines.  A cousin of the grapes, Ampelopsis arborea (peppervine) produces edible, but not very tasty fruit.  However, it does make a very attractive pergola vine.

 

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