The scientific name for Peppervine is Ampelopsis arborea, and this vine is also called Cow Itch and Buckvine. Peppervine grows abundantly in Korea, China, the far eastern side of Russia and Japan. In the United States it was supposed to have been introduced in the early part of the 19th century and now grows wild in most of the south eastern regions, from Missouri to Maryland, and from New mexico to Florida. This vine usually grows in moist and wet places, like alongside streams and rivers and also inside and around forests.
Peppervine is quite slender, and can climb to a height of about forty feet. It has tendrils that are forked that helps it to latch on to anything in its path and start climbing. There are also some rare types of Peppervine which are devoid of tendrils and will grow as a short bush. The tendrils will appear in opposite formation to the leaves. The Peppervine has compound tripinnate or bipinnate leaves, which form alternatively and are deciduous. The length of the main leaves range between 4 to 10 inches, and their shape has a toothed and triangular outline. The smaller leaflets will measure about 1 to 2 inches in length, and will have a width ranging from half to one and a half inches, and have a diamond or oval shaped serrated outline. The top part of the leaf has a shiny surface, having a dark green color and the underside is a lighter shade of green, having hair and veins which stand out. The stem of this vine is slender and woody, and gains a reddish purple to tan color when the vine is fully mature. The stem is more cylindrical and has a pith which is white. There are also several smooth nodes and also nodes which have lenticels which are rough.
Fruits and Flowers
Peppervine has tiny greenish white flowers with a flat top, which appear at the end portion of the vine in clusters. They are in bloom from June to early September. The fruits are dry berries which are about quarter to half an inch wide. In their initial stage the berries are green in color and then change to red and eventually to black. They have seeds which are about two to five, encased in a smooth skin.
Peppervine is used in gardens as a bedding plant and also is used as a showy display on a trellis. It has to be kept trimmed otherwise it can take over the garden very fast and destroy other plants. In the wild too, this vine can kill many of the native plants in its way. The Peppervine is a major food source for the white tailed deer and its berries also sustain raccoons and many other species of the wild.
Not many people cultivate this vine as it can take over a place very fast. It only needs a wet soil and can be propagated easily with seeds. Once its planted it grows aggressively and spreads very fast, requiring regular trimming.