|Porcelain-berry, the "kudzu of the North," on the periphery of the Pennypack Preserve|
|Porcelain-berry fruits in varying stages of ripeness|
Once the plant escaped the bounds of gardens (undoubtedly aided by birds that eat its fruit and then defecate the seeds elsewhere), it found a perfect home in the Mid-Atlantic. It grows up into the canopy, spreads out to capture sunlight, and blankets the trees supporting it, eventually shading the trees to death or ripping off their limbs when the weight of the vines becomes too much for the tree to bear, especially when covered in snow and ice in the winter.
|Porcelain-berry flowers attracting a honeybee|
The only insects I have ever observed damaging porcelain-berry leaves are invasive, non-native Japanese beetles, but they never become numerous enough to inflict real harm to the plant. I suspect that even if the plant has a specific disease or insect pest that keeps it in check in its East Asian homeland, such a disease or insect could never be imported into the United States as a biocontrol agent because it likely would also attack commercial grapes.
|A porcelain-berry rhizome|
One of Pennypack's board members asked me to do a photographic inventory of land parcels on the periphery of the preserve that we might be able to acquire to add to the natural area. I completed the inventory and prepared a PowerPoint program that I presented at the last board meeting. In my remarks prefacing the presentation, I alerted the board members to note that every single one of the parcels I had photographed that was not maintained as a meadow or as lawn was completely overwhelmed by porcelain-berry. Even if we got the plant under control within the preserve, the Vandals are at the gates on private properties we can't touch.
But we do have a chance to maintain the natural diversity inside the preserve, and we will redouble our efforts to try to bring porcelain-berry under control or the winter and during the next growing season.
David Robertson, Executive Director