Fine Vine – A Spectacular Native Plant You Will Love

October 20, 2008 | By | Comments (6)


Native plants are the best plants. Everybody knows that. Well, Grumpy has discovered the most beautiful native vine of all that you’re sure to want for your garden.

Indigenous to much of North America, Rhus radicans is incredibly easy to grow. It tolerates drought, likes most soils, and thrives in both full sun and light shade. Few pests bother it. Thanks to aerial roots, this vine quickly climbs just about any support, cloaking it with lush foliage. Quickly scaling the tallest of trees, it forms a scaffold of branchlets that protrude several feet, their handsome foliage adding a tropical look to otherwise dull and barren trunks.


And in the fall, wow, what a show! Lustrous deep-green leaves assume fiery colors of scarlet, crimson, orange, and yellow. Only Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) rivals it for fall color, but Boston ivy disgusts me, because it isn’t native.

By Its Leaves, Ye Shall Know It
If you’ve never tried Rhus radicans before, you might worry you’re not getting the correct plant. Relax! Here are some telltale signs that will help you make the right choice every time!

•    Each leaf is divided into three leaflets. The leaflets, usually 6 to 8 inches long, may have smooth or toothed edges. Remember this old saying: “Leaflets three, that’s for me.”

•    Clusters of whitish berries appear in leaf axils in the fall and persist into winter. Birds love them and spread the seeds all over creation, so that everyone may share the joy. Remember this old saying: “Berries white, party tonight.”

•    Hairy aerial rootlets embroider the stem of the vine from the bottom to the top. Remember this old saying: “Roots hairy, my name’s Larry.”

Given this vine’s ease of culture and superior ornamental traits, you’ll be shocked – SHOCKED!!! – to learn that virtually no nursery in existence sells this magnificent plant. In fact, I believe a vast horticultural conspiracy was hatched in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 for the express purpose of convincing the American public to shun this vine because it is dangerous.

Why else would they name it “poison ivy”?

A Plea for Help
Grumpians, we can’t let the Feds dictate what we’ll plant and what we won’t. If anyone ought there knows a mail-order source for Rhus radicans, please let the rest of us in on it. The fate of a fine native plant hangs in the balance.


  1. Grumpy

    Everything I said was tongue-in-cheek or if you prefer, foot-in-mouth. I don’t seriously recommend planting poison ivy. On the other hand, I do suggest serving small nuclear bombs at Thanksgiving — with suitable warnings, of course.
    “NOTICE — People susceptible to gamma ray radiation, 500 MPH blast waves, and temperatures exceeding 1 million degrees should not consume nuclear bombs. Possible side effects include irritability, vomiting, acne, diarrhea, memory loss, loss of skin and flesh, really bad sunburn, inability to distinguish Mother Theresa from Paris Hilton, and extreme death. Always consult a physicist before beginning a nuclear regimen and let him know of any other nuclear devices you may be consuming. Stop eating nuclear bombs if you notice sudden weight loss, unexplained disintegration, or mushroom clouds, as these may be signs of serious side effects. Women with mullets should not serve or be served small nuclear bombs, as this may result in a specific birth defect we won’t name here, so you’ll have to guess. As always, do not store small nuclear bombs in the microwave or near open flame. If you notice a strange green light filling the kitchen late at night, ask your mother-in-law to investigate.

    October 26, 2008 at 8:50 pm
  2. Rosina

    Sure…it’s pretty, but if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to posion ivy or oak you’d know that caution should be used around it. Some people aren’t allergic; however I’ve had a friend that ended up in the hospital after exposure to it. I’m allergic, but not as bad. I think that it’s irresponsible to not include a warning.

    October 26, 2008 at 12:31 pm
  3. Grumpy

    You know what the gardening world REALLY needs? A variegated poison ivy! Wouldn’t that be beautiful? I’d put it over my front door and mailbox right now.

    October 22, 2008 at 11:25 am
  4. Even Grumpier

    Clearly, Grumpy has spent a little too much time tailgating this past weekend!

    October 20, 2008 at 11:48 pm
  5. pc

    Don’t forget to include that glorious vine that is consuming the South, Kudzu… Ornamentally covering anything that stays in one place too long such as a ’72 Pinto or Auburn’s offense…

    October 20, 2008 at 10:59 pm
  6. Helen Yoest

    Yes, but have you heard? It’s an exotic revered throughout Asia…

    October 20, 2008 at 7:37 pm

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