Fall Color Plants of Nevada: Virginia Creeper

I have a love-hate relationship with Virginia creeper vines. On one hand, they pop up all over the garden and are a nuisance since they tend to smother some of the flowers in the garden. And they’re hard to pull out of the ground. 

On the other hand, they turn a beautiful crimson red or mauve in the early fall, especially if they’re growing in the sun. Plus, they’re pretty when loaded with dark blue berries. Because of this, I leave them growing on the fence or even other places in the garden to add splashes of color. 

There’s even a state park in Nevada where Virginia creeper becomes part of the spectacular fall color show. 

What Is Virginia Creeper?

Virginia Creeper Vine turning red
Virginia Creeper, Gardnerville, Nevada, 9-17-23, Kim Wilkes

Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is one of the earliest plants to change color in Nevada. A member of the grape family, it produces poisonous grape-like berries later in the season. You’ll mostly find it in gardens, but it grows wild in some areas. A vine that grows up to 40 feet, it can crawl around the ground or climb fences, walls, trees, and plants. It’s deciduous, meaning it loses its leaves in the fall. 

Some people confuse it with poison ivy, especially since it contains raphides, which can cause skin irritation in some people, but Virginia Creeper has five leaflets whereas poison ivy has three. 

The vines are home to the larvae of several species of sphinx moths, sometimes called hawk moths or hummingbird moths.

Is Virginia Creeper Poisonous?

The berries are pretty but poisonous to humans and eating them can be fatal.  Symptoms of Virginia Creeper poisoning include nausea, abdominal pain, bloody vomiting and diarrhea, dilated pupils, headache, sweating, weak pulse, drowsiness, and twitching of the face. For this reason, don’t let small children play around the vines, especially when the vines have berries.

Here’s Where to Find Virginia Creeper in Nevada

Fall color at Kershaw-Ryan State Park
Virginia Creepers at Kershaw-Ryan State Park, Daniel Olson, 10-12-21

Kershaw-Ryan State Park, about two hours north of Las Vegas, is one of the best places to see Virginia Creeper. The vines weave themselves up into the trees, and if the vines are turning red at the same time as the trees take on their yellow hues, it creates a spectacular sight. Even if the trees aren’t turning color yet, the scarlet vines against the green trees look beautiful.

The red creepers also add a nice contrast to the gold leaves of the wild grapevines. You can expect the color to happen here between the first and third week of October. 

Beyond Kershaw-Ryan State Park, look for Virginia Creeper in gardens throughout Northwestern Nevada, as well as other places throughout the state. 

Buy Our Nevada Fall Color Map to Find All the Best Fall Color Hot Spots

Want to know where to find the best fall color in Nevada? Buy our fall color map, which includes directions and descriptions of each fall color hot spot in the state. It’s a great tool to have a relaxing fall color getaway.

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