The Bitter Truth About Bittersweet
We have officially reached the holiday season, the time when people start decorating their homes, often hanging wreaths on their doors. Some holiday wreaths may be made from bittersweet, a rampant invasive vine known to strangle trees, first brought to the country from Asia some time around the 1860s, specifically for ornamental use. The vine has vibrant orange berries with yellow husks in the fall and early winter, as well as pliant stems, making them very appealing for decorative use and wreath-making. Don’t be fooled by this plant’s beauty. While growing, bittersweet often wraps around every plant in the vicinity and has been known to topple entire forest canopies as a result of both the sheer weight of the vine and its ability to girdle trees. It is also notoriously difficult to remove. Vines that have been cut can grow back easily unless the entire root is removed, and it produces many seeds each growing season, reproducing in the spring, no matter how long they’ve been hanging on your door. Although there is some belief that berries sprayed with craft glues may be inert, this has not been scientifically tested. Any berries that drop could produce a problem in your own backyard or anywhere else the berries land. The dangers of this plant are recognized by state law; in Vermont, it is illegal to transport wreaths with bittersweet. However, that hasn’t seemed to stop stores in the state – even in Bennington County – from selling them. Be sure not to purchase decorative items that include bittersweet – and if your already have one in your possession, do not dispose of it in your compost, where the seeds can begin growing. Instead, dispose of it in a sealed plastic bag. For more information, contact Elana at [email protected], or follow the CISMA-Batten Kill Watershed Facebook page. Be sure to look in the Vermont News Guide for invasive plant information each month.