Peppervine (Nekemias arborea) was prodigious along the Denton Trail when we visited there on June 13. Thanks to Jane Schnee (Class of 2010) for showing us this lovely trail along the St. Sebastian River, accessed from a small parking lot on County Road 512 just east of the bridge that crosses the St. Sebastian River.
Scrub plants inhibit the high ground near the parking lot. The trail then wends through moist hammock with wetland plants visible in the the floodplain of the River.
Peppervine is rampant and grows upon many of the trees. This woody vine can grow to be more than 35 feet. Its species name, arborea, means tree-like and references the woodiness of older vines.
A member of the grape family, Vitaceae, peppervine is quite vigorous and climbs via tendrils.
Its has alternative compound leaves that are bipinnate (or tri-pinnate). The vine once was called Ampelopsis arborea. Now it is included in the genus Nekemias to reflect its bipinnate leaf arrangement. Each leaflet is coarsely toothed.
Pollinators reportedly flock to its flat-topped clusters of flowers, and all sorts of wildlife eat its small berries (“grapes”) that ripen from green to red to shiny black.
Each fruit contains 2 to 4 tiny seeds that are spread by birds, raccoons, and other critters.
This vine is quite common along the St. Sebastian River, and we have encountered it before at the Cypress Bend Community Preserve. Occasionally, we have seen it growing at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area, where it is far less common and less vigorous.
Peppervine can overtake trees and other plants, so some folks describe it as weedy. This native vine, though, is beloved by pollinators and wildlife.