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Tuesday - February 01, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Non-Poisonous, Shade Tolerant Vine for Austin
Answered by: Mike Tomme


Hello, I live in northwest Austin and have a very shady wood fence I would like to cover and was thinking about a vine. I have a toddler and a dog so anything poisonous is out of the question. I would like to plant something responsible and native. Thanks.


Here are a couple of ideas:

Parthenocissus heptaphylla (Sevenleaf creeper)

Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper).

Both of these plants are shade tolerant and will give some fall color (this will be less in the shade than it would if grown in the sun). Virginia Creeper will probably be a little faster growing and will be a better climber because the vines have adhesive tips which the Sevenleaf creeper lacks. The Sevenleaf creeper can be trained to climb, but will not do so as readily as Virginia creeper.

Now, as for being poisonous, the description of Virginia creeper in the link above contains the phrase "The berries of Virginia Creeper can be harmful if ingested." North Carolina State University has a poisonous plants database with a page on Virginia creeper that contains this: "HIGHLY TOXIC, MAY BE FATAL IF EATEN!"

However, neither species shows up on these three databases that I checked:

Toxic Plants of Texas

ASPCA Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List - Dogs

University of Pennsylvania Poisonous Plants.

It is odd that one site gives such a dire warning while others are completely silent. All Mr. Smarty Plants can say is - it's not clear. If this is a big concern for you, the Sevenleaf creeper may be a better choice for you.

Parthenocissus heptaphylla

Parthenocissus quinquefolia



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