What is Ampelopsis?

N. Phipps

Partly derived from the word “vine,” Ampelopsis is a genus of about thirty vigorous-growing, shrubby vine plants. Most of the plants in this group are also called porcelain berry, or even American ivy and false grape. Due to the twining growth habit via tendrils, it is oftentimes confused with the Vitis genus of grapes. The small, greenish-white flowers are barely noticeable, blooming from spring throughout summer. The attractive berries soon follow, appearing in autumn, and change in color from lilac to green and then blue.

Ampelopsis leaves and roots may be helpful in treating bruises.
Ampelopsis leaves and roots may be helpful in treating bruises.

While Ampelopsis has been grown in the landscape for ornamental purposes in the past, it should only be incorporated into the garden with great caution. The plants in this genus are aggressive growers. Although they’re tolerant of many conditions and resistant to most pests, they spread quickly, invading or shading out other nearby plants. In the wild, porcelain berry can be found growing along the edges of sunny streams, ponds, or woodlands. In the landscape, however, it’s best to locate the plant in heavier shade to slow its growth.

Ampelopsis may be helpful in treating minor burns.
Ampelopsis may be helpful in treating minor burns.

Only the most dedicated of gardeners should attempt growing these plants. Once porcelain berry becomes established, it’s difficult to eradicate. The taproots of Ampelopsis are quite large, which can make it somewhat difficult to fully dig or pull up. Even when cut to the ground, this vigorous grower will resprout readily. It can take several years to fully remove porcelain berry plants from the landscape.

Since the seeds from porcelain berry germinate easily too, it isn’t unusual for new plants to emerge just about anywhere. In fact, the seeds can remain viable for several years, popping up whenever Mother Nature deems necessary. Birds and other wildlife commonly feast on the berries as well. Upon digestion of the berries, the remaining seeds are dispersed through their droppings. From here the seeds germinate, producing additional Ampelopsis plants.

Porcelain berry has an interesting history with regards to its medicinal use, which is mainly in Asian countries where the plants originate. They have reported used for treating external conditions. Along with the fresh berries, Ampelopsis leaves and roots have antibacterial, fever reducing, and purifying properties. Compresses or poultices have been used in the treatment of bruises, boils, burns, and minor skin disorders. A decoction of the plant roots was also used to minimize tumors and alleviate bleeding hemorrhoids.

Ampelopsis plant roots have been used to alleviate bleeding hemorrhoids.
Ampelopsis plant roots have been used to alleviate bleeding hemorrhoids.

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Discussion Comments


@umbra21 - Where did you get the idea that the berries of Ampelopsis brevipedunculata are poisonous? Everywhere I'm reading about them says they're edible though unpalatable.


@ceilingcat - It's true, it's really difficult to get rid of porcelain berry. My mother started finding some in her backyard, I assume because the seeds were dropped there by birds.

The berries are really pretty, in different shades of blue and purple, and she was really worried that her grandkids would think they were edible, because, of course, they are poisonous.

She tried pulling it up, but she had quite a large, sprawling garden, so it was difficult for her to keep on top of it.

In the end, she realized the best thing to do was educate her grandkids and get them to look for the plants. After all, they spend more time poking into all the little nooks and crannies in there than she did.

Ampelopsis brevipedunculata is just a pain to get rid of though.


@ceilingcat - Yes, climbing vines are very hard to kill. And they do have a tendency to take over, as the article said.

This can be great for someone who isn't very good at gardening though. And I think it really depends on the kind of house you live in. A friend of mine lives in and old brick house, and she planted some vines that grow on one side of the house. It looks great! And, she's not that great at gardening, so she was glad to find a plant that she couldn't kill!


Wow, it sounds like if you plant Ampelopsis, you're pretty much making a life time commitment to it! I can't believe how hard it is to get rid of this stuff.

I tell you, when I was younger I used to always tease my mom about her gardening. Whenever she planted something new she did a ton of research first. Where should it be planted? Does it have any known pests? Is it hard to take care of? That kind of thing.

I thought it was a little silly she did that much research, but when I read stuff like this I think it was justified!

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