Battling Bittersweet

See these festive looking berries?

Photo by: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut,

Photo by: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut,

You’ll find these orange/red seeds, surrounded by their golden seed pods, in Thanksgiving table decorations, poking out of Halloween pumpkins, and entwined in seasonal wreaths hung on many New England front doors. To many people, bittersweet berries are a must-have autumn decoration.

Not to me … when fall hits and these berries gently hang from vines towering above now dead roadside trees, I imagine each little red seed as one soldier in an invasive army whose mission is to destroy, by strangulation, every nearby plant, bush, and tree.  To my ears, bittersweet berries scream “INVASIVE, INVASIVE, INVASIVE.”

Why post about this now, when spring birds sing happily as they flit around gathering building blocks for their nests, and winter’s chill is slowly succumbing to an ever strengthening sun?  This is the best time to effectively wage war on young, newly sprouted bittersweet vines.

In the fall, when berries are abundant, birds gobble bittersweet berries. As nature would have it, our feathered friends happily “deposit” these berries while roosting about in other trees and shrubs. The end result is an ever-spreading crop of bittersweet vines – if vines are left undetected and untouched.

Based on the number of young bittersweet vines I’ve pulled this year, the birds must have been very well fed last fall. Here’s one, still in the ground. The engaging green leaves in the center of the photo mask the monster within.

young bittersweet vine

young bittersweet vine

When you pull young bittersweet vines, preferably after a good soaking rain has softened the earth, you’ll know you have the devil vine by their tell-tale orange roots.

uprooted bittersweet vine and roots

uprooted bittersweet vine and roots

To make sure these do-no-gooders cannot root again, I burn them in our outdoor fire pit. I do not advise adding them to a compost pile.

Learn more about bittersweet and other invasives attacking Connecticut. Keep an eye out for invasive plants, and eradicate them when they are young to prevent their death-hold on your prized landscape.



Filed under Gardening, General, Seasons

4 responses to “Battling Bittersweet

  1. Joene,

    A timely reminder that a little extra attention now can alleviate a big problem in the coming months. The pictures of the bittersweet foliage are very helpful for those of us that didn’t know what to look for.

  2. joenesgarden

    I’ve been on a bittersweet eradication mission of late … I’m amazed at how many newly sprouted vines I’ve found this year.

  3. Ralph

    Thanks for the pictures, I didn’t know what it looked like without strangling vines and really red berries.

  4. Pingback: Mile-a-minute vine « joene’s garden

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