En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - February 09, 2012

From: Madison, MS
Region: Southeast
Topic: Invasive Plants, Edible Plants, Vines
Title: Edibility of peppervine berries from Madison MS
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am following up on a question I've posed to many well experienced foragers and naturalists regarding the pepper vine plant or Ampelopsis arbor. There are many conflicting stories regarding the edibility of this grape and it seems to stem from the amount of carbolic acid (some people say this is tartaric acid). I can eat a handful at most of these berries and have made a fine jelly from juice that has had the acid settled and removed by settlement in the refrigerator and straining through muslin. That being said, juicing the berries was extremely painful to my hands, much like fiberglass. I'm not sure how to proceed on this plant; it clearly has the characteristics of a native grape but I could use your expertise and advice. Thank you in advance.

ANSWER:

Since you have already obviously done research on Ampelopsis arborea (Peppervine), we're not sure we can add anything useful. We did find an Aggie Horticulture article (Texas A&M) on Peppervine. We also discovered, in our Native Plant Database, another plant with the common name "pepper vine," Clematis ligusticifolia (Western white clematis). From our webpage on that plant, we extracted this paragraph:

"This species’ traditional name, Pepper Vine, referred to the acrid, peppery taste of the stems and leaves, which Native Americans chewed as a remedy for colds and sore throats. It is said that the crushed roots were placed in the nostrils of tired horses to revive them. Caution is advised: The genus is known to have poisonous species."

Since you are referring to a grape-like fruit, we hope this is not the right plant; common names can be easily tripped over in plants.

Everything we found concerning edibility said it was a food liked by birds, and mammals would eat it, but preferred other food if they could get it. We also learned that it can be very invasive and absolutely crowd out other more desirable plants in the garden or woodlands.

Since, as we said, we don't have much to add, we will voice an opinion. The process is obviously tedious to extract juice from those berries, and you mentioned stinging and burning while handling it. Are you sure you want that attacking the lining of your stomach? Oh, and were you aware that another common name of this vine is "cow-itch vine?"

 

From the Image Gallery


Peppervine
Ampelopsis arborea

Peppervine
Ampelopsis arborea

Peppervine
Ampelopsis arborea

More Vines Questions

Plants to trail down wall in South Carolina
February 07, 2008 - Good day, I am putting in a stacked mortarless concrete block retaining wall which will rise to the forest floor along a cut bank - about 4 feet high. Each course steps back about one inch from th...
view the full question and answer

Need care instructions for Cardiosperma halicacabum in Little Rock, AR>
May 11, 2012 - I'd like to find out how to cultivate & care for a balloon vine/heart seed vine/love in a puff vine which I found growing wild in my yard (in Little Rock, Arkansas). There seems to be very little in...
view the full question and answer

Native Vines for Pacific Northwest
June 30, 2010 - Hello, I recently built a shed/pen for my large dog. I have a trellis horizontal above the fence to hide the shed from street. I live in Pacific NW. Do you have any suggestions on a nontoxic evergr...
view the full question and answer

Identity of vine growing in Naples Florida
September 15, 2014 - I live on country/residential property outside of Naples, Florida. This year I have had dozens of seedlings of some type of vine popping up all over. I have posted on a couple plant blogs looking for ...
view the full question and answer

Vine to cover pile of tree limbs
August 13, 2013 - I have a pile of tree limbs in my yard. I'd like to find a (flowering or not) vine type plant native to the Austin TX area that will eventually grow all over and cover this pile. Thanks for any sug...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center