The fall leaves have fallen, opening the canopy to a wide variety of sights. One of the most easily noticeable is the bright yellow casing with the bold red berry of the Oriental Bittersweet found vining around any number of things - trees, fences, anything it can climb.
It was brought to the states in 1860 from China as an ornamental plant, its berries looking (unfortunately) lovely as fall and winter decor.
This plant is a fast growing woody vine, growing so fast as to crowd out native vegetation. The vine will climb trees, sometimes girdling (wrapping around and cutting off the flow of water and nutrients to the tree) and killing large trees, but often climbing to the top, blocking out the light for any other plants. This canopy of vines spreads fast (one source stated it can cover an entire acre of forest in only 5-7 years!) creating excess weight on the trees, often heavy snow and ice accumulation will force these trees to fall under the weight.
The beautiful fruit with which the plant was brought here for is also attractive to birds and wildlife which aids in the spreading of this dangerous plant.
There is a native to the US bittersweet (American Bittersweet) that can be differentiated from the oriental variety in a number of ways.
- Oriental has round leaves
- American has elliptical leaves
- Oriental fruit capsule is bright yellow-orange & arranged in the leaf axils
- American fruit is an orange capsule & arranged only at the end of the vine
This plant has both male and female species - the males don't produce berries but still cause the same amount of destruction.
To help stop the spread of this invasive plant there are a few things you can do - most importantly DO NOT MOVE THIS PLANT. Fellow DIYers I'm looking at you - I know it's tempting to cut this to use in crafts and wreathes but this is one of the biggest ways the plant spreads.
If you find you do have this on your property, cut and treat it before it fruits. Other resources for control can be found at this link.
Since 2015 we have been exploring and sharing all the amazing things we’ve found in nature.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who is most often found out in the woods.