It was April. I had just come back from a cabin-fever-induced tramp over our field and through our woods. I had noticed this red-leafed vine growing all over:If our field is 5 acres, then this was easily growing on two acres of it. It lined the main walking path and carpeted the ground near my favorite sitting spot. And then I read Judith’s post about poison ivy. Uh-oh.
It’s a vine. It has three leaves. It has the lovely red fall color that is supposed to be characteristic of poison ivy, carried through the winter into spring. (We had had rather mild winter temperatures, and not too much snow.) How could it have grown all over without my realizing it was happening?
So I fretted about the difficulties of eradication, and braced myself for the onslaught of poison ivy rashes. Well, a funny thing happened on the way through the summer. No one ever got a poison ivy rash. Not even me, when I inadvertently ripped the vine out of the ground with my bare hands, while weeding around my gooseberry bush.
And another thing. While I had seen it growing on the ground around many trees, I had never seen the vine start climbing up a tree. And the vines have bristles on them. While looking for identification pictures on the web, I’ve never seen a photo of poison ivy with bristles.
And the fruit of poison ivy is a white berry. As my son showed me, this vine’s fruit is definitely not white. As a matter of fact, it looks a lot like a . . . blackberry. But it’s not a blackberry. Blackberries have long whip-like branches called canes. They grow upright, making bushes. The prickles are, as anyone who has picked blackberries knows, quite a bit more pronounced–and vicious. And a blackberry typically has more of those little round balls (drupelets) in one berry.
It turns out it’s a native plant called swamp or bristly dewberry (Rubus hispidus). It took me a long time to make a positive id, because there’s more than one kind of dewberry, and on some sites, the photos didn’t look quite like my plant. (In fact, I now think the largest photo on this site is not the correct plant.) And while some of the poison ivy sites I visited had a photo of blackberry brambles in their gallery of impostors, none had dewberry. It’s hard to search on the internet for something that you know what it looks like, but not what it’s called.
At last, this mother breathes a sigh of relief. Not. poison. ivy. But I sure did learn a lot. I hope you did, too.