Parthenocissus quinquefolia is a woody vine, bark gray, rough, with conspicuous warty lenticels; tendrils opposite leaves, much-branched, branches disk tipped for adhering to bark or other surfaces.
Leaves alternate, long-stalked, blade palmately compound, leaflets 5, stalks none to 1.5 cm long, blades, 6-12 cm long, elliptic to widest above middle, tip pointed, base wedge-shaped, dull green above, paler below, margin sharply toothed above middle; leaves appear as forest canopy closes, adapted to both shade and open habitats, often a ground cover in closed canopy where light saturated photosynthetic rates are much lower than that of leaves in full sun (Taylor and Pearcy 1976); leaves live up to 25 weeks (Hicks and Chabot 1985).
Flowers dull white, tiny, 5-parted; inflorescence branched, longer than wide, with a central axis; axis zigzagged, flowers in umbrella-shaped clusters at ends of branches; June-July.
Fruit fleshy, dark blue with bloom, 0.6 cm, fruit stems often red, Sept.-Oct. Persistent into winter; 1-4 seeded. Seed load 30%. Pulp nutrients: water 73%, lipid 16%, protein 8%, CHO 19% (White 1989). Fruit eaten, seeds dispersed, by songbirds & mammals, including raccoons and skunks (Wilson 1993).
Wetland status: FACU.
Frequency in NYC: Very common.
Habitat: Moist to dry soil in open and disturbed areas, woodlands, vinelands, also found on sandy soil of back dune shrublands. Very shade tolerant, often a ground cover in woodlands. Tolerates soil pH 3.8-7.5 (Greller et al. 1990; Hightshoe 1988). In NYC found in soils with pH 4.8-7.0 (Gargiullo unpublished data).
Notes: Foliage eaten by rabbits (Martin et al. 1951). Dispersal to and establishment in new sites in successional forest, contiguous to old regrowth stands has been calculated at a rate of 1.82 m/yr (Matlack 1994)..