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Virginia creeper, also known under the name "Jungfernrebe", is a popular ornamental plant from North America and Asia that is increasingly found in German gardens. The young vines are climbing plants that grow along buildings or climbing aids with the help of adhesive disks and have a very decorative effect with their leaves and the spherical grape fruits. Precisely because of the fruit formation, the question often arises: is Virginia creeper poisonous?
Caution: risk of confusion
Yes, Virginia creeper is poisonous, but before delving deeper into the plant's toxicity, you need to understand how it differs from Virginia creeper. Wild wine and wild grapevine are not the same plant, but they are often confused because of the German name. This mix-up has often led to poisoning from the virgin vines. However, the differences between the individual plants are immediately noticeable when the botanical name is applied.
- Wild Wine: Parthenocissus
- Wild Vine: Vitis vinifera subsp. sylvestris
Both plants come from the same family grapevine plants (bot. Vitaceae) and are related to each other for this reason. Many morphological characteristics are similar, however, the wild vine does not form any toxic components and can be safely consumed by humans. It belongs to the genus of grapevines (bot. Vitis), while Virginia creeper is a genus of its own. You must also note that three species of the genus Parthenocissus are referred to as Virginia creeper.
Self-climbing vine (bot. Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
- most common form
- occurs wild in Germany
Virginia creeper (bot. Parthenocissus vitacea)
- continues to be referred to as Rankender Mauerwein
Tricuspid vine (bot. Parthenocissus tricuspidata)
- comes from Asia, not from America
This means that you must definitely check which plant it is before you buy it. This minimizes the chances of possible poisoning. One of the biggest differences between wild grapevine and Virginia creeper is the lack of adhesive discs in Vitis vinifera subsp. sylvestris. Parthenocissus, on the other hand, forms a large number of adhesive discs that support growth. In addition, the wild vine is taller, reaching up to 40 meters, while maidenhair vines reach a maximum of 30 meters in the wild.
Tip: Since the wild vine is the wild form of the noble vine (bot. Vitis vinifera subsp. vinifera) used for wine and table grapes, you can simply grow this plant in your garden instead of the wild vine. It is just as decorative and best of all: from September you can look forward to small, ripe fruits that you and your children can eat without hesitation.
Due to their ingredients, the virgin vines are only slightly toxic. In itself, there is only talk of one substance, namely oxalic acid. Oxalic acid is a dicarboxylic acid, which in turn belongs to the carboxylic acids and is most commonly found in plants. The stalks and leaves of rhubarb have one of the highest concentrations of all, with up to 765 milligrams per 100 grams. When ingesting high amounts of oxalic acid, the following health problems can occur.Wild Wine, Parthenocissus
- Calcium metabolism is disturbed
- Chronic kidney damage is possible
- Kidney stones can form
- Mucous membranes are permanently damaged
- Skin and subcutaneous tissue are permanently damaged
It has not yet been clarified how high the concentration of oxalic acid is within the Virginia Creeper. However, it is certain that a dose of 5 to 15 grams of oxalic acid can be fatal, depending on the health of the person. Until now, only one death has been associated with Virginia creeper berries, and large quantities have been consumed. Small amounts of the fruit are not expected to be lethal, but frequent consumption could lead to the problems listed above. Therefore, foods containing oxalic acid should be consumed seldom, especially in people who have kidney problems or kidney stones.
effect on humans
The berries and leaves of Virginia creeper have a toxic effect on humans and should therefore not be consumed or only in extremely small quantities. The dark blue to black berries are particularly poisonous. The leaves contain comparatively little oxalic acid, taste bitter and for this reason not even children are interested in them. Virginia creeper is poisonous in all parts of the plant and therefore small children are particularly at risk if they explore their surroundings and get their hands on a piece of the root, for example. The following symptoms may occur after eating the plant, especially the berries.
- increased urination
- general nausea
- irritating effect on the mucous membranes
- irritating effect on eyes if juice gets into them
- Irritation of the respiratory tract, especially in sensitive people and children
Children in particular experience the consumption of the berries with greater intensity, as the organism is more sensitive and susceptible to oxalic acid. Therefore, you must pay attention when a grapevine grows in your garden or nearby, so that your children do not poison themselves. In adults, after a few berries, no action needs to be taken, since the oxalic acid is then only deposited in the body for a while and broken down again, but no direct symptoms appear. That only happens if you were to harvest the grapes and eat one bowl at a time.
In the event of signs of poisoning, proceed as follows:
- drink water or tea
- magnesium tablets should be administered if large quantities of berries are consumed
- these act against the deposits of oxalic acid and wash them out of the body
- if infants do not improve with fluids, a pediatrician or hospital should be contacted
- if juice gets into eyes, rinse immediately
Tip: Be sure to wear gloves when handling Virginia creeper stems and leaves as they contain raphides. Raphides are fine crystal needles of calcium oxalate which can penetrate the skin of sensitive people, cause irritation and blisters and are best treated with soap or rubbing alcohol.Wear gloves for protection
Effect on Pets
Virginia creeper is also toxic to dogs and cats because the oxalic acid has a stronger effect on them than on humans. The symptoms and possible health consequences are even more pronounced and can severely affect the pets. Dogs are just as endangered as cats, since the grapes taste quite good for both animal species and are particularly poisonous. The oxalic acid triggers the following symptoms in the animals, which you should not ignore.
- Difficulty swallowing
- Diarrhea, in severe cases even bloody
- general nausea
- increased salivation
- kidney damage
- swollen tongue
- shortness of breath
Cats and dogs can also experience oral irritation when chewing on Virginia creeper plant parts. Small animals such as guinea pigs or rabbits can be life-threatening even after small amounts.dog with cat
effect on farm animals
Virginia creeper should not be fed to farm animals and if nearby plants are present they should be removed or made inaccessible. While cows have no visible problems from eating it, horses can suffer from increased salivation and bloody diarrhea. However, since oxalic acid is toxic in the long term, cows must also be supplied with calcium so that the oxalic acid deposits are not too high.