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This is a woody vine with trailing stems up to 8' long that branch occasionally. The stems are light green to red, angular or terete, and sparsely to moderately covered with bristly hairs. In addition, sometimes softer hairs and widely scattered small prickles are present along the stems. Alternate trifoliate leaves occur along these stems on long petioles up to 4" long. On rare occasions, some leaves may have 5 leaflets, instead of the usual 3 leaflets. Individual leaflets are 1-2½" long and about one-half as much across; they are ovate to obovate and coarsely toothed along their middle to upper margins. The upper leaflet surface is medium green, hairless, and somewhat shiny, while the lower surface is more pale and sometimes softly hairy. The terminal leaflet of each trifoliate leaf has a short petiolule (basal stalklet) about 1/8" long, while the lateral leaflets are sessile. Occasionally, small cymes of 3-6 flowers are produced from axils of the leaves on peduncles up to 6" long. The peduncles are light green to reddish green and sparsely to moderately covered with small bristles or hairs. Each flower is ½-¾" across, consisting of 5 white petals, 5 light green sepals that are united at the base, a ring of numerous stamens, and a compound pistil at its center that is light green. The petals are oblong-elliptic in shape, while the sepals are ovate and softly hairy. The blooming period occurs during early to mid-summer for about 3 weeks. Fertile flowers are replaced by compound drupes that are ¼-½" in length at maturity. Immature drupes are light green or white, becoming red during an intermediate stage, and finally dark purple or black when they are ripe. Each drupe consists of a cluster of small drupelets; each fleshy druplet contains a single seed. Usually, the flavor of mature drupes is sour. The root system is woody and branching. Sometimes the tips of trailing stems develop rootlets on moist ground, enabling this vine to spread vegetatively. The leaves are semi-evergreen and often become reddish during the fall or winter.


Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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