Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Where Did You Say You Parked?

This morning I had to take my daughter to the Department of Social Services to get a work permit. As you might imagine, there were a lot of other people there already, and finding a place to park was tricky. I dropped her off so she could go ahead and get in line, and took off to find a spot.

Way across the miles of lots, at the very edge of DSS-town, was a space wedged in beside the dumpster on one side and against this vine on the other: Ampelosis brevipedunculata (porcelain vine).

Can you believe the berries? Turquoise is so rare in the plant kingdom and so striking. The range of greens, blues and purples that develop as the berries ripen is incredibly beautiful.

Unfortunately, porcelain vine is an imported ornamental (Asia, 1870s) which is as invasive as it is beautiful. You might think this is a shot of kudzu below, but it isn't. It's the field behind my car--all porcelain vine.

There were only a few hard-to-detect sprigs of other plants struggling through that great, smothering mass. I admit to being pretty impressed with the vine's resourcefulness. I took a minute to get these photos before joining my daughter inside, knowing I would never plant it, but really wanting to. The sheer loveliness of the berries and leaves (and in spite of the horrible evidence!) made me consider if I could possibly...{contain it}.

Well, no, not really. Birds love to eat the berries and as they do that, they spread the very fertile seeds. And pruning before the berries form, well, that wouldn't do--the berries are the best part! Also, the roots of porcelain vine are deep, extensive and vigorous--hard to impossible to pull.

Once it escapes and spreads, it can out-compete our native species and turn acres of land into essentially one plant: porcelain vine. It just isn't worth taking the chance of having it spread from the garden into our watersheds and other natural areas.

I ran inside the DSS office just long enough to put a parent's signature on the line, then we headed back to the car. Incredibly, the process was quick!

Unfortunately, this was what we found where our car had been:

Do you see a laughing face in the greenery at the left of the photo, or is it just me?


There are two Amelopsis species which are native to North Carolina, Amelopsis cordata and A. arborea. Both are referred to as pepper vines. The berries of these vines are less remarkable in color, but both have interesting leaves and less damaging habits than their Asian cousin, porcelain vine.

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