Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 12 comments

When I wandered along Brushy Creek on August 31, in addition to snow-on-the-prairie and eryngo I found peppervine, Ampelopsis arborea. This native vine’s leaves look somewhat like those of another, the dreaded poison ivy, but peppervine’s compound leaves have more—often many more—than the three leaflets that characterize poison ivy. The daubs of pink and orange in the background are flower clusters of marsh fleabane, Pluchea odorata, a strong-scented member of the sunflower family that, unlike peppervine, usually has to be near water to survive.

Botanists classify peppervine in the same family as grapes, which of course are also vines. For more information about Ampelopsis arborea, including a clickable map of the states where it grows, you can visit the USDA website.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 8, 2011 at 5:59 AM

12 Responses

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  1. Lovely.


    September 8, 2011 at 9:18 AM

  2. That plant has the most delicious-looking berries, too bad no one is exactly sure how poisonous they can be. I think the Useful Wild Plants folks said “not toxic but unfit for the human mouth.” Tempting, huh?


    September 8, 2011 at 7:50 PM

    • I find the berries visually appealing but I’ve never tasted one. Based on the description “not toxic but unfit for the human mouth,” I’m not likely to be tempted anytime soon.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 8, 2011 at 8:37 PM

  3. […] Yesterday’s picture gave a good view of the leaves of peppervine, Ampelopsis arborea. The flowers of peppervine (and coincidentally those of the poison ivy that its leaflets somewhat resemble) are tiny and green and therefore inconspicuous. Back on July 6th in northwest Austin I photographed a cluster of the plant’s spherical buds, just one of which had opened into a flower. To give you a sense of scale: the open flower shown here was about a quarter or a third of an inch across. […]

  4. […] daubs of color that appeared beyond the peppervine leaves in the post before the last one were from the flowers and buds of marsh fleabane, Pluchea odorata. As you can tell from the marsh […]

  5. A late comment. Inspired by your ongoing mix of outstanding photos, observations, and literature: this segment from a Dorothy L. Sayers story I was reading, in which an observation is made about the suspect, a scheming ingratiating person:

    “Bit of an ampelopsis, what?”
    “Suburban plant that climbs by suction. You know – first year, tender little shoots – second year, fine show – next year, all over the shop.”


    September 19, 2011 at 11:04 PM

    • Now that’s a great connection between botany and literature; thanks for pointing it out. One thing I find curious is that the person in the story describes the plant as “suburban.” I wonder how Ampelopsis got along during all those aeons before there were any suburbs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 19, 2011 at 11:16 PM

  6. I have myself consumed a handful of these berries. I would say they are no more toxic than muscadine. While muscadine will upset your tummy if you have too much, so will these. I can see a child getting sick from eating too many and easily being confused as a toxic effect.


    August 4, 2012 at 11:35 PM

    • Thanks for reporting your experience with these berries and clarifying the speculation in the earlier comments.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 4, 2012 at 11:46 PM

  7. […] United States. If you’d like a closer look at the vine’s leaves, you can check out a post from the first months of this […]

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