Plants & Gardens Blog

Weed of the Month: Porcelain Berry

As the weather turns brisk, you might find yourself doing a double take when you spot the gorgeous fruits of this month’s weedy plant, porcelain berry (Ampelopsis glandulosa var. brevipedunculata). The luminous berries cluster in a showy display of sparkling blues and purples. Resembling miniature bird’s eggs, the dazzling fruits are the reason this perennial vine was brought to the United States in the 1870s from East Asia as an ornamental groundcover. Those long-ago horticulturists had no idea what an invader they had unleashed on the native flora of the East Coast.

A single vine can grow over 25 feet long, tolerating shade or direct sun, poor or rich soils, dry or moist conditions. It handily outcompetes other plants and can even choke out a fully mature tree! Despite its inclusion on many invasive plant lists—its cultivation is outright banned in Massachusetts, for example—porcelain berry is still planted ornamentally. Even though many local nurseries have phased out its sale, I readily found seeds and seedlings for sale online, with little to no warning about its invasiveness, minus one passing mention I saw about its potential to “take over the neighborhood.”

So, back to the source of all the trouble: those glittering, speckled berries. How does one plant produce a multicolored cluster of fruits? Porcelain berry coloration comes from the copigmentation produced by the interaction of anthocyanins and flavonols. Anthocyanins are common plant pigments that react to changes in pH. As the berry ripens, the pH shifts from acidic to more alkaline, thereby affecting the color. You may have heard of anthocyanin as the antioxidant present in blueberries and other superfoods that purportedly keep you forever young. Flavonols are colorless compounds that bond with the anthocyanins, resulting in the varied coloration of porcelain berries, ranging from pale pink to dark blue and purplish red.

The vigorous root system ensures a competitive edge over local species, and wildlife spread the seeds. Though edible to humans, the fruit are not considered particularly appetizing, tending toward the winning combination of slimy and bland. Porcelain berry is in the grape family, and you’ll notice its lobed leaves and twining habit are similar to those of a grapevine. If you see porcelain berry twisting its way along a fence or hedge, cheer on the Japanese beetles that eat the foliage and do your bit to help our local flora: Pinch off the inconspicuous greenish flowers when they appear in summer, and remove the berries before a bird dines on them and spreads the invasive seeds.

Saara Nafici is the executive director of Added Value/Red Hook Community Farm. She is also the former coordinator of the Garden Apprentice Program at Brooklyn Botanic Garden and a longtime activist, feminist, bicyclist, naturalist, and youth educator. Follow her weedy plant adventures on Instagram.


  • Chris July 9, 2022

    Interesting article. Here in Michigan I’m trying to propagate the two plants that I have been nurturing for about fifteen years. There’s no sign of it spreading or invading. I think it’s an exquisite plant with its variegated leaves and stunning berries. I’ve never seen it in the wild here or in our parks.

  • Jayne September 24, 2021

    I have also had a severe allergic reaction to this invasive vine (similar rash to poison ivy) requiring an ER visit and a course of steroids.  I treat this vine as if it were poison ivy.  Gardeners beware of possible adverse allergic reaction.

  • Hedy Galow October 16, 2020

    This vine has invaded my entire garden and covers some shrubs and trees. Am having a very hard time controlling it and the roots go deep.  I live in Bergen County, New Jersey.

  • Eric July 12, 2020

    Hi - there’s no mention of this weed being allergenic. My wife has had particularly bad reactions. Though the plant doesn’t seem to always be actively allergenic. Do you have any thoughts about this, especially treatment for the Toxicodendron dermatitis? The only thing that seems to cure it is steroids, and we’d much prefer a natural remedy. Thanks very much for the very informative website!

  • Liam November 5, 2017

    This stuff is growing all over Floyd Bennett Field here in Brooklyn. Might want to talk to the National Park Service about it; it’s definitely choking a lot of trees, and there are berries everywhere in the trails.

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Image, top of page: Saara Nafici