My husband and I lost most of our chicken flock to an unknown predator in one night of terror last summer. After a little research, we decided to replace them with Easter Egger chickens. Easter Eggers’ eggs range in color from blue to green to pink, coming right out of the chicken looking like already-dyed Easter eggs. We bought baby chicks in July and while there is still a while to go until they are of age to lay eggs, I can’t wait for the day I find a clutch of pretty pastel-colored eggs in the nest boxes.
There is an invasive plant called porcelain berry vine that produces berries that are similarly colored and just as pretty as Easter Eggers’ chicken eggs, but I sincerely hope to never lay eyes on them. Porcelain berry vine has not yet taken a firm hold in Wisconsin, although it has been discovered in a few spots. It is classified as “Prohibited” by the DNR’s invasive species rule NR40 which means that it is illegal to possess, buy, sell, transport or release the species into water or on land. If introduced into Wisconsin, it is likely to survive and spread, potentially causing significant environmental or economic harm, or harm to human health.
Unfortunately, porcelain berry vine was discovered in Sturgeon Bay recently, but a cooperative effort by local invasive species experts and the landowner quickly contained the infestation. (They hope.) Since it was discovered in a Sturgeon Bay neighborhood, far from Madison and the Fox Valley where it has also been found, the fear is that it is more widespread than previously thought. As a side note, the landowner had legally bought the porcelain berry vine from a nursery prior to 2009 when NR40 went into effect.
Porcelain berry is most prevalent in edge habitats and disturbed areas like roadsides, railroad and utility rights-of-way, fencerows, recently timbered or cleared lands, and along rivers and streams. It climbs over everything it encounters with vines up to 25 feet long, shading out native plants and destroying wildlife habitat along the way. Porcelain berry can easily cover and choke out a fully mature tree. And if it doesn’t outright kill that tree, the weight of the vine makes the tree more susceptible to wind, snow, and ice damage.
At the same time that porcelain berry is producing its massive vines, it develops a vigorous hard-to-kill root system with a deep taproot and many shallow horizontal roots that can extend up to 25 feet. The spreading roots sprout and form suckers resulting in a dense, impenetrable thicket of vines. What a monster!
Porcelain berry is so successful in its rampage because it tolerates both sun and shade, rich or poor soils, and dry or moist conditions. It is aided in its spread by birds and mammals who eat the berries and poop out the seeds which then readily germinate.
Porcelain berry’s leaves look much like wild grape leaves and the vines have a twining habit similar to that of grapevines. The undersides of the leaves have small hairs. Inconspicuous greenish flowers appear in mid-summer followed by the colorful small, shiny, speckled, hard berries that form in broad upright clusters. The fruit flesh is white. One way to distinguish a porcelain berry vine from a wild grape vine is to cut the stem. The pith, in the very center of the stem, is white in porcelain berry vine and brown in grape vine.
HOW DID IT GET HERE?
Like so many of our invasive species, porcelain berry vine was brought to the United States from East Asia in the 1870s for use as an ornamental ground cover.
Porcelain berries are poisonous to humans. Fortunately, they taste pretty awful, so you aren’t likely to eat more than one.
LEARN SOME LATIN!
Porcelain berry vine’s Latin name is Ampelopsis glandulos var. Brevipedunculata
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU FIND PORCELAIN BERRY?
For starters, act quickly and report your find by using one of the methods in the REPORT IT! section. If you are unsure that the plant you have found is actually porcelain berry, report it anyway so it can be checked out. By law, you must remove a prohibited species from your property. In most cases, the DNR or other local invasive species group or council will assist you with funds and/or with the actual work of removing the plants.
WISCONSIN DNR’S RECOMMNDATIONS FOR CONTROL:
Mechanical: Carefully hand pull small vines from trees and uproot small plants. For vines too large to pull out, cut them near the ground. If not treated they will re-sprout and will need to be cut repeatedly. If the plants are pulled or cut while in fruit, fruits should be bagged and disposed of in a land-fill to prevent spread of seeds. All control treatments will likely need to be repeated.
Chemical: Follow all herbicide label instructions. Apply a systemic herbicide, glyphosate (eg. Roundup) or triclopyr (eg. Garlon) 20% solution on freshly cut stumps. Or apply a 20% solution of triclopyr mixed in bark oil in a six-inch high band all around the base of the stem, near the ground, in autumn. Spray leaves during the growing season, using a broadleaf herbicide to retain grasses and avoid creating large dead zones. Caution must be taken to avoid killing other plants. All control treatments will likely need to be repeated.
Take your pick of the following ways to report porcelain vine or any other Prohibited or Restricted Wisconsin invasive species:
Fill out the form on the EDDsMapS website
Use the GLEDN app on your smartphone
Include as much information as you can including species name, date of observation, location, and send a photo!