Pepper vine, Ampelopsis arborea, is a member of the grape family, or Vitaceae as scientists call it, and a bit of a misfit. According to the Lady Bird Johsnon Wildflower Center, it's a shrubby, woody vine that can grow to be 35 feet long or more — up to 72 feet. However, its fruit, which turns black when ripe, is widely thought to be inedible to humans. In other aspects, peppervine resembles Virginia creeper, another native vine with woody stems that, like poison ivy, may be a pain in the buttocks. As far as we can tell, peppervine is not listed as a noxious weed or invasive by any agency or state.
According to some sources, the berries contain calcium oxalate, which can induce numbness in the mouth and throat. Cow itch, sometimes known as buck vine, is one of its common names. Anyone interested in trying the material should exercise caution, according to the University of North Carolina Extension Office. There is some disagreement about whether peppervine is poisonous. Peppervine (Ampelopsis arborea L. Koehne), a grape-related plant, is native to Texas.
According to Robert A. Vines' book, Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines of the Southwest, it is also found in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Two to four seeds are found in each berry. This plant is frequently confused for poison ivy. Peppervine is a woody deciduous stalk and vine with non-adhesive tendrils that mimic native grapes. Hand pulling is the greatest management option for most gardeners, especially in the spring.
Because it has a very deep tap root, an older, more developed plant stalk should be cut near the ground, and the cut stems should be treated with a broadleaf herbicide. If you are unsure if you are dealing with peppervine or poison ivy, contact your local County Extension Office for guidance.