Difference between Virginia Creeper and Siberian Ginseng
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Randy Crouch
Posted on: July 29, 1999

I recently purchased a variety of seeds from you and, while I am satisfied with them, I am having a difficult time identifying the Siberian Ginseng.

The trouble is that there is a plant here (Virginia Creeper) which so closely resembles the Siberian Ginseng that I am having a hard time telling the two apart.

Can you please tell me of any positive identifying details so that I will not get the two confused when I transplant the young plants to the area which the Virginia Creeper thrives in? I presently have 5, 6" plants which are, to all appearances, identical to the Virginia Creeper. Perhaps there is a peculiarity of odor, root structure, or fruit which might help me to tell which is which. I have looked up both species and have come up with nothing helpful.

The plants certainly look alike while very young, with their toothed palmate (handshaped) leaves, but soon become very different. Virginia creeper will trail or cling to any support and produce tendrils with adhesion structures to allow it to climb. The stem is without spines. When it fruits, the inflorescence branches often, always producing two branches at every branch point.

Siberian ginseng will soon make sturdy canes that will be covered with downward pointing spines. It never climbs, but becomes a shrub that produces runners after many years and in this way produces a formidable spiny thicket! The inflorescence is ball shaped, with all branches coming from one point - even though the berries are blue black as in Virginia creeper.

Don’t give up on the Siberian ginseng seedbed for at least two years. Protect it with 0.5 centimeter (1/4 inch) squared welded wire netting - to foil mice who love the seeds! Keep evenly moist and winter the seedbed or flat out of doors under hay or chopped hardwood leaves as mulch. Straw often is full of grain kernels and thus attracts mice. Aspen and pine mulch may be harmful according to C. K. Aial and B. M. Kapur’s "Cultivation and Utilization of Medicinal Plants"

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