Lacey Woods Park Grape Vine Discovery!

Text, photo, and video by Nora Palmatier

In late January, ten volunteers met at Lacey Woods Park in Arlington to remove English ivy and porcelain berry vines from the edge of the managed area next to the forest. This is an area we’ve long neglected in favor of the natural area in middle of park. On this day, we removed vines covering a grove where there used to be houses with non-native azaleas, saucer magnolias, and rhododendrons. Then we noticed a 6″ DBH (diameter at breast height) “tree trunk” bent over, which after following its path through the rhoddies, realized it was a native grape vine—a rarity in Lacey Woods Park. We’ve only found one other back in the park’s thickest section of greenbrier (Smilax roundifolia). The photo below doesn’t do it justice, but the yellow line shows the vine’s path as it winds thru the rhoddies, over a holly tree (Ilex opaca), and up the limbs of the Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). Given that woolly adelgid have decimated so many hemlocks, finding one showing no damage from this insect was a find in and of itself! (And the red line was a first attempt that refused to be deleted.) 

Here also is a video of the vine:!AvAGQhg3_2eBgd0rPrnr_ZxgWapepw?e=830q4Q. But even that doesn’t show its 60-foot length. 

I returned the next day and discovered there is an auxiliary branch of the vine roaming over a stump that appears to have had grapes this year. Definitely, this will be explored during the summer when I hope to taste a native grape before they’re all gone to the birds.

I also posted news of the grape vine’s discovery on the ARMN and Tree Stewards of Arlington and Alexandria listservs and received the following comments:

  1. Reminder to NEVER cut a vine until you have a positive ID that it’s an invasive and not a valued rarely seen native. We can always return and remove an invasive, but we can’t glue a cut vine back together.
  2. Those wanting native vines in their own yards need to research the growth patterns and best locations. As Plant NOVA Natives states, “Right Plant, Right Place.”
  3. Total Awe that such a treasure was only now discovered when so many of us have traipsed Lacey Woods Park the past decade for bird watching, tree walks, and invasive removal workdays.

A grape reminder that natural treasures exist even in the managed landscape. (Pun intended.) If you come to our next workday on Feb. 18, 2-4 pm, we’ll be happy to show you. Sign up at Bring your binoculars and we can argue about where exactly the vine ends….

For additional information on wild grapes, check out Alonso Abugattas’s blog piece:; see also the National Capital Region

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