Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
2 ratings

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
Nekemias arborea

Peppervine
Nekemias arborea

Peppervine
Nekemias arborea

More Edible Plants Questions

Native wild plum trees for Johnson County, Texas
December 24, 2012 - What native wild plums will grow in southern Johnson County? And where can I find the trees locally? Thank you
view the full question and answer

Leaves of Chile pequin consumed overnight from San Marcus TX
June 23, 2013 - Something ate all the leaves of my Chile petin overnight. There is a ton of frass under the plants but no sign of a critter to be found. These plants have been in the same area for years and this is t...
view the full question and answer

Edible plants in northeastern Ohio
February 12, 2009 - I am doing a project and i was wondering what are five native edible plants to the northeastern Ohio region. Also if you could tell the seasons they are available. Thank You,
view the full question and answer

Information on edible tubers of hog potato from Austin
November 10, 2011 - I inquired a while back about hog potato or Hoffmannseggia glauca. You gave me some information on the plant but no information on when the plant produces the edible tubers. Also how long does it take...
view the full question and answer

Controlling Cnidoscolus texanus (Texas bullnettle)
July 18, 2013 - Hello,I need your help to control some nasty weeds in my yard/pasture. I am an old timer and do not have a picture to include—haven't figured out that part of the camera/phone yet. This weed is a pri...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.