Common Name: Porcelain berry
Scientific name: Ampelopsis brevipedunculata, syn. Ampelopsis gladulosa var. brevipedunculata
Identification: Porcelain berry is a woody, deciduous climbing vine that can grow up to 25’ long. As it climbs, it grows tendrils that cling to supporting surfaces such as trellises, fences, or other plants. The stems commonly twine around each other and around supporting surfaces. Young non-woody stems (e.g., leaf stems, tendrils) are hairy. Immature bark is brown with white pores called lenticels. Mature bark is medium brown with deep fisures and is non-peeling. Leaves are alternate, toothed along the edges, deep green during the growing season, and up to 5” long. The leaves are variable in shape with three to five lobes which can be deep or shallow. Certain horticultural varieties are known for deeply lobed leaves and variegated green and white coloring. Porcelain berry produced green, inconspicuous flowers over the summer. This species is best known for its fruits, which grow in clusters, ripen in the fall and are variably deep purple, violet and bright turquoise in color. Fruit of all three colors may be present on the same plant at the same time. Fruits are ¼ – ⅓” in diameter. (Dirr 2008)
Look-alikes: Porcelain berry looks like a closely related species, raccoon grape (Ampelopsis cordata), which is native to the Southern Midwest, but not to the Great Lakes basin. Raccoon grape is aggressive in its native range and may be undesirable in Great Lakes ecosystems (Missouri Department of Conservation). The leaves of raccoon grape are either unlobed or shallowly lobed. Its young stems are hairless while porcelain berry has hairy new growth.
Porcelain berry can also look similar to native species of grape vine (Vitus spp.), which are in the same family. The fruits of ripe wild grapes are uniformly dark purple to black in color when ripe, while porcelain berries are multi-colored. The mature wood of grape vines is usually shaggy and peeling, while porcelain berry bark does not peel. Finally, the pith (inner wood) of porcelain berry stems is white while that of grape vines is brown. (Sarver 2008)
Porcelain berry is reported infrequently in the Great Lakes Basin. It is most frequently reported in the greater New York City area and in coastal counties of New England. It also occurs in the Southeastern U.S. This species may be under-reported due to its similarity to common native grapes. It is described as being hardy to Zone 4. Wild growing porcelain berry is most likely to be found in areas where the species has been planted as an ornamental.
Additional invasive species distribution data for specific Great Lakes jurisdictions are available via:
The seed is spread by birds and other wildlife that eat the fruit. When it grows in riparian areas, porcelain berry seed may also be carried over long distances by water. It may also spread vegetatively, growing new plants from stem and leaf fragments (Waggy 2009).
Porcelain berry prefers moist, disturbed areas including wet woodlands, forest edges, floodplain areas, urban parks and streambanks. It does not appear to tolerate heavy shade.
Porcelain berry is very fast growing – in ideal conditions, an individual can reach its full length of 20-25’ in a single growing season. As it grows, it climbs up and over other vegetation, blocking its access to light. Its tendency to grow on trees and shrubs can leave them more vulnerable to storm damage. It produces a large amount of fruit and can form single-species tangles in vulnerable areas.
Porcelain berry was introduced to North America in the late 1800’s as an ornamental plant. Although not hugely popular, it is still in trade today as an ornamental for its bright, multi-colored berries and its ability to grow quickly over support structures. Its popularity may be limited by its vulnerability to Japanese beetles, which can ruin the foliage (Dirr 2008).
Please see our Landscape Alternatives pages for more information about how the WIGL Collaborative selected alternatives.
|Alternatives for Porcelain berry
Common name (Latin name)
for arbor, trellis
|American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens)a
‘Bailumn’ AUTUMN REVOLUTION™
|Virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana)||✔||✔|
|Red honeysuckle (Lonicera dioica)||✔||✔||✔|
|Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)||~c||✔||✔|
|Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla)||✔||✔|
|Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)||✔||✔||✔|
|Passionflower vine (Passiflora lutea)||✔||✔|
|American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens)
|Climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris)||~c||✔|
~ = trait is somewhat present but not as pronounced as in check-marked examples
a Asian bittersweet is often mislabeled as its native cousin and sold by nurseries. If purchasing American bittersweet, it is very important to seek a reputable nursery (preferably one that specializes in woody and/or native plants) and ask questions to confirm it is, in fact, native bittersweet.
b This cultivar is capable of self-pollination for fruit production unlike most other bittersweet varieties.
c Virginia creeper and climbing hydrangea are clinging vines; they do best on solid surfaces like walls and wooden fences.
Green = native to all or part of the Great Lakes Basin
Yellow = native to North America but not to the Great Lakes
Blue = not native but not invasive
The WIGL Collaborative’s decision trees are designed to help site users, who are perhaps newly discovering that plants that are part of their home landscaping are invasive, prioritize which species should be removed first based on risk to the surrounding environment, economy, and occasionally, to human health. In a perfect world, everybody would remove all invasive plants from their landscaping right away, but in reality, removing mature woody plants involve a hefty investment of time and/or money. These diagrams can help people with multiple woody invasives in their landscaping prioritize to get the most benefit for their efforts.
To learn more about the methodology and information used to develop the decision trees and for helpful hints on how to answer the questions, please see the full report here (PDF).
The following is a brief overview of management techniques shown to be effective on porcelain berry. For more detailed information on how to use these techniques, please visit our Management and Control page. For technical assistance on managing woody invasive species, please get in touch with a local cooperative invasive species management group.
Timing and spread concerns: Early detection is an advantage in managing any invasive species. This is particularly true of porcelain berry, which is not yet widely established in the Great Lakes Basin. Whenever possible, commercial sale of this plant should be discourage or prohibited. Individual plants should be controlled before they are able to fruit in order to prevent spread. If control is undertaken after plants have fruited, it is best not to remove the plants from the site to avoid spreading seed.
Physical control: Young plants can be pulled from moist soil, but pulling or digging is considered impractical for established plants due to porcelain berry’s extensive, fibrous root system which often becomes entwined with the roots of other plants. The climbing vines can be pulled down from atop trees and shrubs and cut or mowed near the base to mitigate damage to native vegetation and to prevent flowering and fruiting. However, cutting and mowing are not lethal, and the plants will likely regrow.
Chemical control and combined approaches: Foliar, basal bark and cut stump herbicide treatments are effective. Foliar spray is the most feasible method for large, dense infestations, but will likely damage any native vegetation being used for climbing structure. Basal bark and cut stump treatments are also effective and are less likely to damage nearby plants if applied carefully. Some studies suggest that early fall is the most effective time to apply chemical treatment (Waggy 2009).
Cultural controls: Because porcelain berry does not tolerate dense shade and tends to invade disturbed, open woods, it has been suggested that planting native trees to increase forest canopy closure can prevent new invasions and weaken or eradicate existing populations of porcelain berry. However, because establishment of a tree canopy takes decades, this will need to be done in conjunction with other practices.
With any treatment, it will be necessary to monitor for and treat regrowth and new seedlings in subsequent years.
Resources on Management of porcelain berry:
- Dirr, MA. 1998. Ampelopsis brevipedunculata. In: Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Fifth Edition. Champlain, IL: Stipes Publishing. pp98-100.
- Sarver, M, Treher, A, Wilson, L, Naczi, R and FB Kuehn. 2008. Porcelain berry and native grapes. In: Mistaken Identity? Invasive Plants and Their Native Look-alikes. Delaware Department of Agriculture. 28-29. Accessed: 7/18/2019.
- Waggy, MA. 2009. Ampelopsis brevipedunculata. In: Fire Effects Information System (Online). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory. Accessed: 7/18/2019.
- Missouri Department of Conservation. Raccoon grape, Ampelopsis cordata. In: Missouri Dept. of Conservation Online Field Guide. Accessed 12/23/2019.
Photo: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, UConn, via bugwood.org