Welcome to Superoceras, a blog about science and natural history, slightly biased towards paleontology and zoology, but inclusive of all sciences. Started in October of 2009, my goal is to communicate scientific knowledge (and the occasional piece of nonsense) in an informative and entertaining manner. Feel free to contact me with questions, comments, concerns, or criticism at superoceras(at)gmail(dot)com, and follow me on Twitter @Superoceras for all that and more in 140 characters or less!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Backyard Botany: Invasive vines

Invasive vines: climbing fences and choking out bushes like a boss.

My yard is covered in vines.  Terrible, invasive, non-native vines, that seem to grow a lot faster than I can get rid of them.  It has become a serious problem.  Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), English ivy (Hedera helix), and mile-a-minute vine (Polygonum perfoliatum) can all be found on my property in Edmonston, Maryland. Initially brought in for ornamental purposes, their agressive growth have allowed them to take over large portions of  my yard.  They grow over natural groundcover, trees, shrubs, fences, gardens, sheds, and even the house itself.  It makes me very unhappy.  But their is one invasive vine that really gets under my skin, much more so than all the others combined: Porcelain berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata).

Ampelopsis brevipedunculata, with unripe fruit.  If you see this in your yard, get rid of it before those berries start to turn blue.

Porcelain berry is the worst. Unless of course it's growing in its native Asian temperate forests.  Like the others mentioned above, it has been cultivated in the United States for ornamental use, but where I live, it is a serious invasive threat.  Any individual plant purchased for ornamentation quickly becomes many as a result of seeds being spread by birds and other animals, as well as by vegetative means.  It is a climber, and will grow up and choke out even the tallest trees.  One plant, in a pot or on a trellis in your yard can quickly become a neighborhood or city/county/state wide problem.

The reddish stem and tender young leaves associated with new growth in Ampelopsis brevipedunculata.  

To add injury to insult (yes, I do mean it that way), there is one more thing that puts porcelain berry on my invasive "most wanted" list. I mentioned above that it really gets under my skin, and I mean that quite literally.  I appear to be highly allergic.  The first time I cleared it out of the American holly tree, I thought I must have gotten into poison ivy or oak (both of which can also be found in my yard), because I broke out in a bit of a rash.  The second time I cleared it from a section of fence, it was immediately clear that it was the porcelain berry that was making me break out in the worst plant-based rash I've ever had (and I've had a few).  This woody, deciduous, perennial vine is a menace.  If you find it in your yard, I'd highly recommend you get rid of it.  Just wear gloves before you start cutting and pulling it down.


  1. I have so much Japanese honeysuckle, I'd completely denude my yard if I got rid of it all. I have taken down a few big bushes, but it is just EVERYWHERE in Bloomington.

  2. At least the Japanese honeysuckle is attractive and fragrant. But as you indicated, it's pretty invasive in Indiana as well. There is a native Maryland species of honeysuckle that I'm trying to replace it in my yard with. But more on that in the next post.

    1. I loved smelling the Maryland version and sticking out drops of nectar on my walls home from school as a kid. The shrubs covered the greens along a nearby empty lot. Such a beautiful smell, but definitely a spreader. I have the same love for the invasive silk tree or mimosa tree... The smell and inch worms are the best. Having to uproot the babies all over the neighborhood isn't so great.

  3. The ampelopsis is trying to take over the borders in my Connecticut yard...trying to figure out how to get rid of it w/o using toxic chemicals. We've been beating it back for a few years, but this year it's really bad.

  4. I found something growing near my porch which looked like wild grape. I adjusted the tendrils the other night to encourage climbing a different direction... And now I'm pretty certain that thing is not a grape and must go! I rashed over like crazy!

  5. i have it here in staten island new york, i am highly allergic to it,,my skin bubbles up, then dries up and peels off,and my eyes
    SWELL up,,and i get deep red circles around my eyes! HELP!!!!!!