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Beautiful but not Benign

 

Porcelain Berries on Vine
Porcelain berries may look beautiful, but watch out because these vines can destroy ecosystems! 
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Invasive Plant Spotlight: Porcelainberry

(Ampelopsis brevipedunculata)

This month our invasive plant spotlight features a pestering vine with some very pretty berries.  Porcelainberry, also known as amur peppervine, is one of Rock Creek Park’s most invasive vine species.

Porcelainberry is native to Asia and was originally cultivated as a bedding and landscape plant in the United States.  Despite widespread acknowledgment of its invasiveness, porcelainberry is still widely sold and planted.  NEVER PLANT PORCELAINBERRY IN YOUR YARD! (Please and thank you.)

The porcelainberry vine grows commonly in Rock Creek Park and can usually be seen along the forest edge where it receives lots of sunlight.  The vine typically carpets areas of growth and in some cases will completely blanket trees along a clearing.  By blocking out sunlight and water from plants below, the vine can quickly kill off plant life located under its sprawling growth.



Rock Creek Conservancy volunteers bag up porcelainberry vines. Rock Creek Conservancy volunteers stand in a thicket of porcelain berry vines which covered the entire Piney Branch tributary wetlands. At just one event, volunteers removed over 55 bags full of vines. There is still a lot of work to be done. 

 

Porcelainberry is easily identified by its unique leaf structure with a heart-shaped base and coarsely toothed margins or leaf-tips. Porcelainberry also features easily recognizable berries that appear in summer and last throughout Fall. The berries can grow in beautiful purple and blue colors and are a favorite of birds and wildlife in Rock Creek Park. Porcelainberry is also known for its blanketing growth. It’s a good bet that you’re looking at porcelainberry when you see a tree in Rock Creek Park covered by what looks like a blanket of leaves and vines.

Frost Grape: Rock Creek Conservancy.

Frost Grape: A native plant in the D.C. area that is sometimes confused with porcelainberry.
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Porcelainberry: A non-native invasive plant in the D.C. with heart-shaped, serrated leaves. 
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In many cases, mature porcelainberry can be confused with Rock Creek Park’s native grape species (Frost grape, Vitis vulpine).  There are some key differences. 

Firstly, grapes always grow under the vine, towards the ground, in the native species.  In porcelainberry the berries tend to grow upwards, towards the sky, from the vine.  Also, porcelainberry berries feature a white pithy center when smashed that the native grape does not have.  Finally, the bark on a native grape vine routinely peels back, while the porcelainberry vine does not. 



Bird munches on some porcelain berries. Not good for the environment. An American goldfinch eats porcelain berries, this is the main way this invasive vine spreads. It is very hard to stop. 

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Again, never plant porcelainberry in your yard.  The berries will be consumed by birds and wildlife and spread far beyond the boundaries of your garden. Do you still need a good vine for your garden landscape? Some equally aesthetic Native alternatives include trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) both of which are commonly found in Rock Creek Park.

 
Written by John Maleri

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