Before we dig into tonight’s Forage Friday post I have to address an issue that was raised by a comment on one of the Facebook groups I share with. The commenter said that she had trouble with trespassers “foraging” on her property. And that she had to involve the police because of the damage done to the plants she had reserved for her own use. So, in no way, shape or form should anyone enter private property without permission from the landowner.
Today I received an email from Annette who wanted to ask about Virginia Creeper. Specifically, if it could be used to make rope. The answer is yes. But, there are better options. Virginia Creeper is a strong flexible vine native to the Appalachian Mountains. It’s often mistaken for poison ivy but Virginia Creeper has five leaves per cluster where poison ivy only has three leaves per cluster. Both vines can have what’s called prop roots that hold them to the sides of structures and trees so without the leaves it can be hard to tell the difference. Especially with young vines that are the size one might use to lash poles together for a shelter. One of the identification factors for Virginia Creeper is that it’s tendrils branch out and end in little disks.
I have never had an allergic reaction to Virginia Creeper but in research for this article I learned that some people do get a rash but it’s mild.
As cordage the use of Virginia Creeper seems to be in baskets. The supple vine is woven between limber twigs and is strong enough to hold a moderate amount of weight.
A better option for cordage might be spruce roots which are both stronger and more flexible but in a lot West Virginia spruce is not as available as Virginia Creeper. Another good option would be young grape vines.
Virginia Creeper is not a type of grape but is a “cousin” of grape. However Virginia Creeper berries are listed as toxic with a list of nasty symptoms of poisoning.
In spite of the warnings of a possible rash Peterson’s Field Guide says that Native Americans used the leaves of Virginia Creeper to treat the rash of poison sumac and that the leaves are used in combination with vinegar to wash wounds. But, this is something that I do not have firsthand knowledge of and therefore I can’t really say if it works.
The most common use for Virginia Creeper is in landscaping. The vine can be planted as a way to provide shade and turns a beautiful velvety red in Fall.
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