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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.

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

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Tuesday - July 03, 2012

From: Freehold, NJ
Region: Northeast
Topic: Plant Identification, Vines
Title: Identity of vine growing in New Jersey
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hello! I am hoping you may be able to help me out in identifying a vine plant that has started to grow from under my deck, through the lattice and up the outside of my deck. I bought the house 2 years ago and believe this plant was very small at the time, but it is growing very fast now. Here are some facts of what I'm seeing: I can send a picture if it will help. -I am in NJ -The plant produced small purple flowers with yellow inside around May. -The flowers have wilted now, but were about half inch in diameter. -It has clusters of green berries(10 or so per cluster)- some have now turned to a deep red color. -The berries are about a 1/4 in long. -It is June 28 and some berries are in early stages now, and many seem to be matured. -When I squeeze a red berry, the inside almost looks like the seeds of a tomato. -The leaves only green and look like a heart with a stretched out tail. Any insight would be helpful. It quite a interesting plant and nice looking despite having only small flowers and berries. Right now its starting to take over that portion of my deck and if I can figure out what it is, maybe I can get it under control or transplant it to somewhere where it can climb higher.

ANSWER:

Your vine is probably not a vine native to North America (our focus and expertise is with plants native to North America) since I do not find a match for it in our Native Plant Database.  I searched for it by doing a COMBINATION SEARCH, choosing "New Jersey" from the Select State or Province slot, "Vine" from Habit (general appearance) and, to cover color perceptions and variations, "Pink", "Blue", "Purple" and "Violet" from Bloom color.  The search resulted in 20 vines, but none matched your description.   You can do the search yourself and see the results.  Using the flower color, I also looked through the Connecticut Botanical Society's Gallery of Connecticut Wildflowers, but didn't find a match there either.  You can see descriptions and photos of Native Vines of the Northeast and Great Lakes from Gardening-for-Wildlife.com.

I did find one non-native invasive vine that sound somewhat like your description:  Solanum dulcamara (Bittersweet), a native of Europe and Asia.  Here is more information from the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England, King County, Washington and from Missouri Plants.

Here is another source for information about Invasive Plants of the Eastern United States with a list of invasive vines.

If your vine is not the bittersweet listed above nor any of the other vines, either native or invasive, you can go to our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that will accept photos for identification.

 

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