Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus Thunb.), also known as Asiatic bittersweet, is an aggressive invasive vine that’s found in the eastern part of the U.S. It currently occurs from Maine to North Carolina and as far west as Illinois.
I’ve written before about other invasives but this one is a real monster. Oriental bittersweet spreads very quickly and the biggest danger is that it can quite rapidly choke out competing vegetation.
At left, you can see what it looks like when it chokes a tree. Some people say that it’s as dangerous to the northeast as kudzu is to the southeast. According to the National Park Service:
It grows over other vegetation, completely covering it, and kills other plants by preventing photosynthesis, girdling, and uprooting by force of its massive weight.
It was introduced in the 1860s as an ornamental–many people still use it for making wreaths. It owes its success as an invasive plant to its ability to rapidly produce seed. It’s also spread by birds that feast on its prolific red berries.
If you have Oriental bittersweet on your property, the best way to kill it it so pull it out by its roots, before it fruits. (That means now.) We have it in our yard…we cleverly trailed it up the bannister of our back steps because we thought it was pretty. But it’s getting awfully close to the Rose of Sharon next to it. But it’s warm enough now to spend some time taking it down. I’ll take pictures of the uprooting and post them.
For more information, see the Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council Invasive Plant Manual.
photo 1 courtesy of Milford Daily News
photo 2 courtesy of University of Maine Cooperative Extension