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Oriental Bittersweet is Bittersweet!

Fall has officially arrived! The forest is once again adorned in vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow, and so are many of the local homes and businesses. In fact, many of the decorations used in these homes and businesses are made from plants that were collected from our forests, such as Oriental bittersweet.

 

photo – Leslie J. Mehrhoff

Oriental bittersweet was introduced to the United States, from Eastern Asia, in the mid-1800s as an ornamental plant. Its woody stems and persistent scarlet berries are an appealing addition to decorative, seasonal wreaths and ornamental floral arrangements. Despite its beauty, Oriental bittersweet can be quite beastly.

It is an aggressively growing vine that girdles and overtops surrounding vegetation. The weight ofmany vines can cause trees to fall, which can damage power lines, homes, and other trees.  It can also prevent forest regeneration after timber harvest and can become a pest in agricultural production.

Strangling vine. Photo – Chris Evans

The growth pattern of this plant drastically alters the landscape by out-competing other vegetation, thus limiting available food and habitat for wildlife.  If Oriental bittersweet is left untreated it will hurt the economy of our region by impacting the timber industry, agricultural production, and recreational opportunities. 

Oriental bittersweet is found in old home sites, fields, forest edges, hedgerows, open woodlands, along road edges and other disturbed sites. Birds are the principal long distance carriers of seeds. However, seeds are also widely spread by people through decorative use of these plants in floral arrangements and landscape plantings.

photo – James H. Miller

American bittersweet and Oriental bittersweet are known to hybridize in the wild and plants labeled as “American bittersweet” in commercial greenhouses are often mislabeled Oriental bittersweet. If you wish to add vines to your landscaping, rather than risk planting Oriental bittersweet, consider using native alternatives such as Virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana), Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans), and passionflower (Passiflora incarnata).

Visit this factsheet for more information on Oriental bittersweet control – oriental bittersweet factsheet.  For more information to help determine if you have American or oriental bittersweet,  refer to this factsheet. You can also contact Eric Boyda of the Appalachian Ohio Weed Control Partnership by phone at 740-534-6578 or email at appalachianohioweeds@gmail.com.