Friday, September 21, 2012

Kudzu-Like Vine Surrounding Princeton Battlefield

This is a followup to a previous post about the Princeton Battlefield grounds. The vast mowed lawn gives the impression of order at the battlefield, but along the edges, there's a different story.
In a closeup, it's possible to see the reddening foliage of flowering dogwoods spaced along the woods' edge.

Likely planted many decades back to grace the battlefield's borders, those along the left side are now completely overgrown by vines.

Here, one dogwood branch (slight burgundy color on the right) is all that can be seen reaching out of a stifling blanket of exotic porcelain berry vine. (Porcelain berry is short for Ampelopsis brevipedunculata, a name as sprawling as its growth form.)

In addition to ornament, the dogwoods have traditionally provided abundant berries for migrating birds. Some internet research has yet to reveal whether the porcelain berries provide an adequately timed and nutritious substitute. Lipid (fat) content in the berries is important for sustaining the birds' energy, since lipids provide more energy than an equivalent weight of sugar. The shade of the vines will also limit dogwood blooms next spring (note the flower bud on the left).

All around the base of the dogwoods, a tangle of vines reach upwards--porcelain berry and oriental bittersweet, along with the native wild grape.

It's easy to liberate a tree from vines. Simply sever the stems of the vines and leave the top portion to die. No need to pull anything down.

Elsewhere at the battlefield, on the south side of Mercer Road, more advanced stands of porcelain berry demonstrate the plant's kudzu-like capacity to overwhelm trees and shrubs.

These three trees and the surrounding landscape behind Clark House have completely disappeared beneath a blanket of porcelain berry. The one native seen was jewelweed, somehow able to poke a few of its orange flowers up through the enveloping vines sprawling across the ground.

Princetonians may want to develop a taste for grand-scale topiary, because the battlefield and the local birds are serving as a seed distribution service for this highly invasive species.

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