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The Monday Garden

Issue No. 31 - October 27, 2002
by Sue Sweeney

Porcelainberry, in this picture growing along Stamford’s Mill River, is so lovely in Autumn with its multicolor fruit. Unfortunately, it’s also a truly scary alien monster that won’t go away after Halloween. Porcelainberry, Ampelopsis brevipedunculata, is higher on the naturalist’s “BOLA” list than the title star of that great 1950’s movie “The Eggplant That Ate Chicago”.

“BOLA” means “be on the look out”. And in this case, it’s serious. Porcelainberry entered the USA from Asia disguised as a desirable garden plant -- soooo pretty, yet easy to grow. However, like our native Poison Ivy, Porcelainberry turned out to be a public menace. It’s too easy to grow and the birds spread its seeds too rapidly. Like Kudzu in the South, Porcelainberry smothers its unfortunate neighbors with a thick shroud of light-blocking vines.

You might first see a Porcelainberry seedling in your garden and think “How nice, a wild grape”. Don’t be fooled. While the foliage looks a bit like its grape relatives, Porcelainberry leaves are smaller, with rounder and more deeply cut sinuses (the concave indentations in the leaf’s border). If you don’t pull Porcelainberry up immediately, it develops long, thick, drought-proof taproots that are hard to dig out.

Since it spreads only by seed, if you keep it cut down so that it can’t flower, you can at least contain it.

See http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/common.htm for more information on Porcelainberry and other invasive plants.

From The Monday Garden. Copyright © by Sue Sweeney. Reproduced with permission. 

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