Vines with purple berries

Garden News Blog

Weed of the Month: Porcelain Berry

By Saara Nafici | October 26, 2017

As the weather turns brisk, you might find yourself doing a double take when you spot the gorgeous fruits of this month’s weedy plant, porcelain berry (Ampelopsis glandulosa var. brevipedunculata). The luminous berries cluster in a showy display of sparkling blues and purples. Resembling miniature bird’s eggs, the dazzling fruits are the reason this perennial vine was brought to the United States in the 1870s from East Asia as an ornamental groundcover. Those long-ago horticulturists had no idea what an invader they had unleashed on the native flora of the East Coast.

A single vine can grow over 25 feet long, tolerating shade or direct sun, poor or rich soils, dry or moist conditions. It handily outcompetes other plants and can even choke out a fully mature tree! Despite its inclusion on many invasive plant lists—its cultivation is outright banned in Massachusetts, for example—porcelain berry is still planted ornamentally. Even though many local nurseries have phased out its sale, I readily found seeds and seedlings for sale online, with little to no warning about its invasiveness, minus one passing mention I saw about its potential to “take over the neighborhood.”

So, back to the source of all the trouble: those glittering, speckled berries. How does one plant produce a multicolored cluster of fruits? Porcelain berry coloration comes from the copigmentation produced by the interaction of anthocyanins and flavonols. Anthocyanins are common plant pigments that react to changes in pH. As the berry ripens, the pH shifts from acidic to more alkaline, thereby affecting the color. You may have heard of anthocyanin as the antioxidant present in blueberries and other superfoods that purportedly keep you forever young. Flavonols are colorless compounds that bond with the anthocyanins, resulting in the varied coloration of porcelain berries, ranging from pale pink to dark blue and purplish red.

The vigorous root system ensures a competitive edge over local species, and wildlife spread the seeds. Though edible to humans, the fruit are not considered particularly appetizing, tending toward the winning combination of slimy and bland. Porcelain berry is in the grape family, and you’ll notice its lobed leaves and twining habit are similar to those of a grapevine. If you see porcelain berry twisting its way along a fence or hedge, cheer on the Japanese beetles that eat the foliage and do your bit to help our local flora: Pinch off the inconspicuous greenish flowers when they appear in summer, and remove the berries before a bird dines on them and spreads the invasive seeds.

Plant Finder

Elegans Porcelain Berry foliage

Elegans Porcelain Berry foliage

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Elegans Porcelain Berry fruit

Elegans Porcelain Berry fruit

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Elegans Porcelain Berry

Elegans Porcelain Berry

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height: 15 feet

Spread: 12 inches

Sunlight:

Hardiness Zone: 6a

Description:

An interesting vine with most unusual fruit in colors ranging from pink to purple to amethyst; berries must be seen close-up to be appreciated; variegated dissected foliage adds a real touch of elegance to this improvement on the species

Ornamental Features

Elegans Porcelain Berry is primarily grown for its highly ornamental fruit. It features an abundance of magnificent turquoise berries from early to mid fall. It has attractive white-variegated dark green foliage which emerges pink in spring. The deeply cut lobed leaves are highly ornamental but do not develop any appreciable fall colour. The flowers are not ornamentally significant.

Landscape Attributes

Elegans Porcelain Berry is a multi-stemmed deciduous woody vine with a twining and trailing habit of growth. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other landscape plants with less refined foliage.

This is a relatively low maintenance woody vine, and is best pruned in late winter once the threat of extreme cold has passed. Gardeners should be aware of the following characteristic(s) that may warrant special consideration;

  • Insects

Elegans Porcelain Berry is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • General Garden Use

Planting & Growing

Elegans Porcelain Berry will grow to be about 15 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 12 inches. As a climbing vine, it tends to be leggy near the base and should be underplanted with low-growing facer plants. It should be planted near a fence, trellis or other landscape structure where it can be trained to grow upwards on it, or allowed to trail off a retaining wall or slope. It grows at a fast rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 30 years.

This woody vine does best in full sun to partial shade. It is very adaptable to both dry and moist locations, and should do just fine under average home landscape conditions. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America.

Summary 6

Ampelopsis brevipedunculata (syn. Vitis heterophylla Thunb.), the porcelain berry, is an ornamental plant, native to temperate areas of Asia. It is generally similar to, and potentially confused with, grape species (genus Vitis) and other Ampelopsis species.

Ecological threat in the united states 7

Porcelainberry is a vigorous invader of open and wooded habitats where it shades out native shrubs and young trees. As it spreads, it climbs over and blankets existing plants and weakens and kills them by blocking sunlight.

Impacts and control 8

More info for the terms: invasive species, natural, prescribed fire, tree, vine, vines

Although porcelainberry is considered invasive in 12 states (reviews by ), its impacts are likely greatest along coastal areas of the Northeast where it is most common (see General Distribution). In the US Forest Service’s Eastern Region, porcelainberry is classified as a Category 1 invasive species. Plants in this catagory are “nonnative, highly invasive plants which invade natural habitats and replace native species” . Porcelainberry has been described in various parts of the Northeast as a “pernicious invader” (review by ), “extremely destructive” , “aggressive” (, review by ) and “highly invasive” . However, based on a literature review, Luken did not consider porcelainberry invasive in eastern forests, suggesting that it may not be invasive throughout its entire northeastern United States range. Although porcelainberry may not currently (2009) be problematic throughout its range, numerous states including Massachusetts , Connecticut , Tennessee , Georgia , and the upper Great Lakes states , have placed it on their invasive species lists due to its potential to become invasive.

Porcelainberry invades wildlands and can climb over and shade out native vegetation (, reviews by ). The extra weight of this vine may make supporting vegetation more susceptible to wind and ice damage (reviews by ). Heavy infestations of porcelainberry may kill native vegetation (reviews by ), suppress the establishment of tree seedlings (, review by ), and alter successional courses in invaded plant communities (see Successional Status). NatureServe considers porcelainberry to have medium to low ecological impacts; its tendencies to shade out native vegetation and exploit other resources (i.e., water, nutrients) are of most concern.

Fire: No information is available on the use of prescribed fire for porcelainberry control at the time of this publication (2009).

Prevention: Preventing the establishment and spread of porcelainberry has not been discussed in the literature; however, concern in the literature over porcelainberry’s ongoing use for landscaping ( reviews by ) suggests that restricting the sale of porcelainberry may reduce future establishment and spread.

It is commonly argued that the most cost-efficient and effective method of managing invasive species is to prevent their establishment and spread by maintaining “healthy” natural communities (e.g., avoid road building in wildlands ) and by monitoring several times each year . Managing to maintain the integrity of the native plant community and mitigate the factors enhancing ecosystem invasibility is likely to be more effective than managing solely to control the invader .

Cultural control: Shading has been recommended as a means for controlling porcelainberry. Planting fast growing trees such as tulip-poplar and red maple, or allowing existing trees to mature, may shade out porcelainberry, provided trees are kept free of its vines (reviews by ). Shading may control porcelainberry best when used as a part of an integrated management plan .

Physical or mechanical control: Porcelainberry vines can be pulled down from trees (reviews by ). Cutting or mowing may control porcelainberry —particularly after its vines have been pulled down from trees (reviews by )—but repeated treatments are necessary to prevent sprouting (reviews by ). Because it prevents flowering, cutting may be most effective in the fall or spring (reviews by ). Repeated mowing may reduce porcelainberry’s “vigor” (review by ). One review indicated that porcelainberry’s root system cannot be dug out .

Biological control: Based on a literature review, Ding and others identified porcelainberry as one of a group of invasive species from Asia most in need of a biological control. Four natural enemies were identified as potential biological controls for porcelainberry , but as of this writing (2009) nothing more has been published.

Chemical control: Porcelainberry may be controlled with herbicides (, review by ) such as triclopyr or glyphosate (review by ). One review recommended a foliar application of glyphosate in early autumn to be the most effective control for porcelainberry. Basal bark applications of triclopyr formulated for use with penetrating oil control porcelainberry, but precaution must be taken not to harm other woody species (review by ). Experimental treatments to control porcelainberry indicated that herbicides controlled porcelainberry when used in conjunction with mowing . It has been suggested that large porcelainberry vines be targeted for broad applications of herbicide and smaller vines be spot-sprayed (, review by ).

Herbicides are effective in gaining initial control of a new invasion or a severe infestation, but they are rarely a complete or long-term solution to weed management . See the Weed control methods handbook for considerations on the use of herbicides in natural areas and detailed information on specific chemicals.

Integrated management: Based on preliminary field testing, Robertson recommended cutting porcelainberry to the ground and treating stumps with herbicide to gain initial control of porcelainberry, followed up with a dense planting of fast growing trees that may eventually shade out porcelainberry. He recommended that hand-pulling or herbicide spot-spraying be used to control subsequent sprouting.

Prevention and control 9

Do not plant porcelainberry. Birds are attracted to the fruits and will easily spread it far and wide. Once established it can be difficult to control due to the vigorous root system. Pull young vines up by hand anytime and try to remove the rootstock. Apply systemic herbicides like glyphosate and triclopyr to cut stems or leaves to kill entire plants including the roots.

Sources and Credits

More Info

  • iNat taxon page
  • Biodiversity Heritage Library
  • eFloras.org
  • GBIF
  • Google Scholar
  • IPNI + POWO
  • Tree of Life
  • Tropicos

The Porcelain Berry Vine: Learn How To Grow A Porcelain Vine

Porcelain vines are closely related to grapevines, and like grapes, they are grown more for their fruit than their flowers. This deciduous vine features dense, lush foliage from spring until fall. Rapidly growing porcelain vines provide quick cover for arbors and trellises.

Also called a porcelain berry vine (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata), the plant produces clusters of interesting berries once in late summer and fall. The berries start out white, but gradually darken to shades of pink, lavender, turquoise, blue and black as they age. Each cluster may have berries of several different colors. Birds and squirrels relish the berries, but people find them inedible.

How to Grow a Porcelain Vine

Porcelain vines are hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 9. Plant porcelain vines in a location with full sun or partial shade.

They prefer a moist, well-drained soil, but once established they tolerate drought.

The vines climb by means of twining tendrils. Plant them near a sturdy supporting structure such as a fence, tree, trellis or arbor. When choosing a supporting structure, keep in mind that the vine can grow 10 to 20 feet long and become quite heavy.

Porcelain Vine Care

Established porcelain vines can go for weeks without supplemental watering, but during prolonged dry spells it benefits from slow, deep watering.

Prune the vine any time of year to control the growth. Remove wayward sections of the vine and stems that extend beyond the supporting structure. Porcelain vines tolerate hard pruning, and you can cut them nearly to the ground in late winter or early spring. When the vine grows against a tree, it’s a good idea to cut it all the way back every few years to give the tree a chance to grow in diameter.

Grow porcelain vines in the landscape with discretion. These prolific vines spread aggressively and reproduce rampantly from seeds. Control the vine’s invasive tendencies in the garden through hard pruning and by removing seedlings. They easily escape into wild areas where they can crowd out native species. The ‘Elegans’ cultivar is not as invasive as others in the species, however. It features green leaves with attractive pink and white splotches.

NOTE: Before planting anything in your garden, it is always important to check if a plant is invasive in your particular area. Your local extension office can help with this.

Plant Information

Common Name: VINE – VARIEGATED PORCELAIN BERRY VINE
Scientific Name: Ampelopsis Glandulosa
Alternative Names: Amur Peppervine, Blueberry Climber
5L bag R52.00

Description

  • Perennial
  • Porcelain Berry vine is native to Asia.
  • It is a deciduous, ornamental climber with dark green, heavily mottled white and pink leaves.
  • Small green flowers are followed by attractive pink-purple, later clear blue fruit – resembling small bunches of grape.
  • Full sun and frost hardy.
  • Cautionary note: care must be taken to keep it from overtaking and shading out small plants.

Parts Used

  • The leaves and roots.

Medicinal Uses. It is said that

  • In Asian countries it is used for treating external conditions.
  • The leaves and roots have antibacterial, fever reducing, and purifying properties.
  • Compresses or poultices have been used in the treatment of bruises, boils, burns, and minor skin disorders.

The information contained within this website is for educational purposes only. This site merely recounts the traditional uses of specific plants as recorded through history. Always seek advice from a medical practitioner.
Mountain Herb Estate, and its representatives will not be held responsible for the improper use of any plants or documentation provided. By use of this site and the information contained herein you agree to hold harmless Mountain Herb Estate, its affiliates and staff We might be out of stock for this specific plant. Please contact us for more information

Amur peppervine is a deciduous, woody vine that climbs to heights of more than 20 ft. (6.1 m). It has become a serious invader of the eastern United States and closely resembles native species of grape. These branched tendril-bearing, woody vines (native grapes have unbranched tendrils) have lenticels and white piths that are continuous across the nodes. The alternate leaves are simple and heart-shaped with coarse teeth along the margins. The leaves vary from slightly lobed to deeply dissected. Flowering occurs in mid-summer, when greenish to white, inconspicuous flowers develop in small clusters. Fruits are small berries that range from yellow to purple to blue in color. Amur peppervine prefers moist, rich soils and can thrive in a wide range of light availability. It invades streambanks, pond margins, forest edges and other disturbed areas. The thick mats formed by this climbing vine can cover and shade out native shrubs and young trees. It spreads very quickly since birds and mammals eat and thus disperse the seeds. Amur peppervine is native to Japan and northern China. It was first introduced into the United States in 1870 as an ornamental and landscaping plant.

Monstrous Porcelain-Berry Barrage

I posted a BYGL Alert last October on Porcelain-Berry (Ampelopsis glandulosa var. brevipedunculata) when the problem berries were fully ripened and available for widespread distribution by birds and other animals . I’m revisiting this ever-expanding non-native vine because its invasive arc in southwest Ohio is being compared by some horticultural professionals as possibly rivaling kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata).

I first came across an “escaped” patch of porcelain-berry in 2014 while leading a BYGLive! Diagnostic Walk-About in a Hamilton County park. The small patch of this tangling vine was overtopping a non-native bush honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.) which was not a bad thing. The vine was not obvious elsewhere in the park.

However, since that time, porcelain-berry has become widespread throughout that park where it commonly overtops shrubs and small trees. It’s so dense in a number of locations that I’ve had audience members identify it as kudzu when I’ve shown pictures in my teaching presentations.

This past Thursday, I came across small trees in a landscape several miles away so thoroughly covered with porcelain-berry it was hard to identify the trees; they looked like monstrous piles of vines. The trees are in a well-managed landscape in high-profile locations causing me to believe the over-topping occurred rapidly and recently. Otherwise, the porcelain-berry would have been removed. This illustrates the vigorous growth potential of this non-native and how quickly it can invade even the most guarded landscapes.

Identifying a Monster

Porcelain-berry belongs to the grape family, Vitaceae, and may be mistaken for wild grapes (Vitis spp.). In fact, both are commonly found growing together which I believe allows porcelain-berry to fly below our radar until it’s unmasked by its name-sake berries. Even then the ruse may continue with “porcelain grape plant” being another common name you will find applied to porcelain-berry.

However, the flowers and fruits of our native grapes are borne on long tapering panicles that hang down from the stem. Porcelain-berry plants bear their flowers and berries on upturned panicles with multiple points. The panicles point upward even on stems that droop downward.

Porcelain-berry may also be mistaken for native members of the same genus such as heartleaf peppervine (Ampelopsis cordata) which is native to the southeast U.S. It doesn’t help that “amur peppervine” is another common name for porcelain-berry.

The leaves of porcelain-berry may also confuse the issue. Their shapes can vary widely; even on the same plant. Some leaves look very similar to wild grape while other leaves resemble mulberry (Morus spp.).

Of course, the most distinguishing feature are the name-sake fruits. Porcelain-berry is a prolific seed producer. Although the flowers are small and inconspicuous, the lustrous multicolored speckled berries are very obvious and look like they were formed from porcelain. In fact, it’s hard to ignore the colorful display of shiny berries cascading down drooping vines. Birds also find them attractive as a late season food item and they poop out vining offspring over a wide area.

The Making of a Monster

Porcelain-berry is native to northeast Asia including China, Korea, Japan, and Russia. Various sources in the literature notes the plant was first introduced into the U.S. in the 1870’s as a landscape ornamental. Its vigorous growth habit and attractive berries have long made it a favorite in landscape designs.

In fact, you can still buy plants and seed; just do a Google search using “porcelain berry plants.” An eBay seller notes, “This plant is a vigorous grower that requires support. Good for fences, walls and arbors.” Of course, they should add “good for entombing small trees.”

There’s even a variegated form on the market, Ampelopsis brevipedunculata ‘Elegans’. Here’s a scary description from one online seller: “Vigorous grower by tendrils. Ideal for trellises or trailing over a retaining wall. Mature Height: 15-18 ft. Hardy to -30°F Maximum Elevation: 6,000 ft.”

Thankfully, my web search revealed the number of sellers are far outnumbered by the number of postings warning of the highly invasive nature of porcelain-berry. The word is spreading, but perhaps not as fast as the vine.

Killing the Monster

The best course of action is to not plant porcelain-vine! The second best action is to reduce the spread by acting quickly to pull-and-destroy young plants before they get a strong root-hold.

Once established, porcelain-berry is difficult to control. There are no selective herbicides for porcelain-berry and its dense vining growth precludes the use of non-selective herbicides such as glyphosate (e.g. Roundup) unless the vines are pulled off of infested plants and then sprayed.

Successfully hand-roguing established porcelain-berry plants is problematic due to the plant’s vigorous root system. Trying to control porcelain-berry by ripping out vines usually results in more vines. However, spread by seed can be reduced by pruning and destroying vines before the berries ripen. There is still time to do this in southern Ohio. Most plants are still flowering and most berries have not yet ripened.

I don’t t know whether or not we’re seeing “another kudzu” creeping over our landscapes. However, we shouldn’t find out by doing nothing.

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